The EU needs to rethink its Russia policy. Instead of chasing after Vladimir Putin’s confrontational regime, European leaders, who are meeting on 25 March, should throw their support behind those who work for social change and promote democracy in Russia.
Europeans must rid themselves of any expectations or hope for constructive engagement with Putin. The Russian leader’s famous social contract—co-opting citizens into accepting authoritarian rule in exchange for economic security, social stability, and Crimea —is bankrupt.
After unprecedented state violence against nationwide protests in January, the regime has embarked on what activists call a “new era of repression.” The picture of a masked riot police officer sitting under a portrait of Vladimir Putin has become a symbol of the confrontation between the state and the people. Russian philosopher Oksana Timofeeva speaks of a “declaration of terror” against society.
But Putin does not represent Russia as a whole. Young, energetic Russians have emerged, working towards a freer, more open society. Local protests have been flaring up all over the country, with citizens rallying against unpaid wages, toxic industrial plants, unwanted landfills, and corrupt officials. Well-documented protests in support of jailed opposition leader Alexey Navalny are the first to show that support can be mobilised on a nationwide scale.
And it’s not only protests. Russian civil society is more active, resilient, and dynamic than EU policymakers recognise. After ten years of repression, it is more creative and diverse than ever. Many groups reach larger audiences, fundraise successfully, and experiment with new business models. Independent online media have joined civic activism, uncovering corruption, reporting on abuses and informing citizens on their rights. Professional groups (journalists, doctors, and scientists) are coming out in solidarity with repressed colleagues. Volunteerism and philanthropy are on the rise.
For the Putin regime, this active civil society is an enemy. In addition to authorising police violence, the regime has pushed some 100 new laws through the Duma since December that attempt to strangle NGOs, civil rights, protests, education, media, and the Internet. Civic experts speak of the beginning of “quasi-totalitarian control of all citizens and international contacts.”
The 2012 “foreign agent” law, which affected only registered NGOs, has been expanded to target individual citizens or unregistered initiatives receiving international funds. It imposes penalties of up to five years in prison for those who fail to register and report on activities. Pressure is rising on the media, who have their own “foreign agent media” register, while new criminal defamation laws make it an offence to criticise groups like the police or security forces. Despite protests from scientists and academics, new laws aim at cutting the educational sector from international cooperation.
At their March summit, European leaders must confront this repressive Russia. “It’s a tsunami,” a veteran Russian civil society representative said recently, calling for more attention and support from Western policymakers.
Beyond imposing further sanctions against Russian officials, it’s time for Europe to actively engage with the “other Russia”. Individuals and groups working for social change and development in Russia are Europe’s best partners. Many of them support Western values and are keen to cooperate with EU partners, share know-how, and connect to cross-border networks, despite laws aimed at stopping them.
Instead of illusions of partnership with Putin and his officials, European policymakers should side with Russians who want their country “to be democratic, modern, dynamically developing, and free from a personalist Putin regime”, a petition signed by Russian supporters abroad states.
EU leaders must finally develop an attractive agenda for its ‘fifth principle’ guiding relations with Russia. This action plan must go far beyond aiding registered NGOs, to address the broad eco-system of activists engaged on the problems Russia’s regime has failed to address: ecology, corruption, domestic violence, torture, HIV/AIDS, election monitoring, migration, and prison reform.
The annual 11 million euros earmarked by the EU for Russian civil society support need to be increased, given the country’s size and its 145 million citizens. To reach new, informal groups, active in remote regions of Russia, the EU needs to develop smaller, more flexible funding instruments. Activists, students, scientists, and artists should be put at the head of the EU visa queue. An EU coordinator for civil society relations with Russia needs to be appointed.
For the Putin regime, the EU is an adversary. Europe’s best chance to support a better future for Russia is to connect to the country’s civic activists and wider Russian society.Barbara von Ow-Freytag Democracy EU-Russia Foreign Policy Leadership
Barbara von Ow-Freytag
The Other Russia – Europe’s Best Bet
22 Mar 2021
“The day we stop believing democracy can work is the day we lose it” said Queen Jamilia as the Galactic Republic faced enemies both internal and external during the Clone Wars. Today, democracies face populist and authoritarian challenges both domestically and globally. Among the latter, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is increasingly positioning itself as the leading revisionist force, seeking to change international norms and values and the current world order to become a global hegemon. It is promoting an alternative autocratic model to Western democracies and views them as adversaries and existential threats. Benefitting from economic difficulties and Western disunity, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic, China under the CCP has seized the opportunity to challenge Western powers, amongst them the European Union (EU), in a power competition in which values are at the heart of the conflict.
This competition is taking place in the economic, information, technological, political and diplomatic arenas. The Chinese government is leading disinformation campaigns and does not hesitate to bully countries into submission. This political interference is combined with intensive cyber-attacks and large-scale technological espionage, restricted market access, and aggressive investments in national industries, infrastructures, and resources. As a result of its economic and political interests, the CCP is challenging international rules, institutions, and political norms, including human rights – all of which it has committed to in international agreements. The COVID-19 pandemic has increased awareness of the threat the Chinese government poses and of the EU’s dependency on China, both as a provider of goods but also as a market. This has been reflected in public opinion polls that show largely negative views of China in EU countries, especially in Western and Northern European states.
With this growing awareness, the 2019 Joint Communication of the European Commission and the High Representative highlighted the mounting tensions and competition between the EU and China. It offered a compartmentalised model of the EU-China relationship in different policy areas, from “cooperation partner” and “negotiation partner” in domains where interests can be aligned or balanced, to “economic competitor” and “systemic rival promoting alternative models of governance”.
The differentiated approach adopted by the EU might maintain economically fruitful relations on both sides but is unlikely to incite China to end its political, economic, informational, and technological attacks, affecting the national security of EU member states.
Subsequently, in December 2020, China and the EU agreed in principle on a Comprehensive Agreement on Investment. China committed to ensure a “greater level of market access for the EU”, “fair treatment for EU companies”, and “ambitious provisions on sustainable development, including commitments on forced labour and the ratification of the relevant ILO fundamental Conventions”. This agreement would be an important step in obtaining equitable treatment and access for EU companies and businesses; however, it solely focuses on market access, leaving a number of other issues such as human rights abuses and investment protection to negotiate at a later stage. In addition, this agreement will still not open the Chinese market on a reciprocal level. Finally, the EU side-tracked the United States on this negotiation despite an open call from the then incoming Biden administration to consult and cooperate on this “common concern”. This plays directly into the hands of the CCP and its divide and rule strategy, and is a missed opportunity for the EU to have a reinforced bargaining position with a like-minded power (the US) to obtain stronger commitments.
Furthermore, the CCP has demonstrated a lack of respect for rules, and employs tools and strategies to increase its dominance, leading to political instability and risks for EU countries. This calls for stronger engagement against the CCP’s disrupting behaviour on all fronts, in order to protect European interests, values, and political independence. As China’s second largest trading partner, the EU has leverage to negotiate stronger commitments and concessions. The differentiated approach adopted by the EU might maintain economically fruitful relations on both sides but is unlikely to incite China to end its political, economic, informational, and technological attacks, affecting the national security of EU member states.
In addition, the Union should develop stronger ties with countries who view China under the CCP as a mounting threat in the Asia region, such as Australia and Japan, and especially the United States. The Biden administration intends to maintain the country’s hard stance on China; however, it aims to do so in close cooperation with its allies and partners. Despite a decrease of Europe’s trust in the United States this past decade as the relationship became more competitive, critical, and less reliable, they closely share essential values as well as political and economic interests. This is a unique opportunity for the EU to have a stronger bargaining position in negotiations with China. It must seize it and identify how the transatlantic partners can cooperate on China.
All this does not mean Europe should decouple from China, or that there are no remaining paths for cooperation. But the old juxtaposition of nouns – partner, competitor, rival – should be replaced by a hierarchy of a noun and verbs: China is a systemic rival with whom we should compete and cooperate with a balanced inclusive approach incorporating relevant fields, depending on the respective behaviour of the CCP. This difference in syntax precisely indicates that the systemic rivalry is the framework, and competition and cooperation are the variables within it.
The defence of liberal values and democratic principles is essential to the health of our democracies. To protect them from the influence of authoritarianism, the EU has to ensure its actions meet all the challenges ahead, because believing democracy can work is the first step to defending it. The European Union has to be more proactive, resolute, and bold in its relationship with China. We need to become a blue dragon.Marie-Anne Brouillon Roland Freudenstein China Foreign Policy Values
The Case for a Blue Dragon: Facing China as a Confident Democracy
17 Mar 2021
The broader Black Sea region is the scene of increasing tensions amid renewed great power competition and conflicting geopolitical and geo-economic interests. The rise of China and its solidifying regional footprint requires a better understanding of how this influence is capitalised at national and regional level, what type of challenges it creates for respective countries, and what choices decision-makers have at their disposal in this new complex and complicated geopolitical setting.Balkans China Foreign Policy
China in the Broader Black Sea Region
17 Mar 2021
The EU is right to boost its relationship with India, who might be the world’s strongest economic power by the end of the century. However, many hurdles remain for India to take on a leading global role.
With the Western world struggling with the COVID-19 pandemic and China strengthening its position, bolstered by a good management of the epidemic, there is a temptation to view the world’s geopolitical future as a game of three players: the United States, China, and the European Union. However, it is clear that in future decades, other continents and countries will increase their role. India especially has the potential to change the global balance in the coming decades.
The ongoing Portuguese EU Council Presidency has set out a priority to enhance EU-India relations, and for good reasons. While India remains in many respects a developing country, it has great potential. Importantly, a strong India can have a stabilising impact in Asia, especially vis-à-vis China. For the West, India’s main attraction comes from its potential future role in the global economy.
For the EU, India can offer great economic opportunities. India has an increasing interest in finding global allies, not least because of China.
While India is fully conscious that China has, for decades, overtaken India in economic and technological development, India has done very well from a global perspective. Though China’s advantage over India is still increasing in many fields, there are factors that strongly play in India’s favour.
India’s advantages over China
Firstly, contrarily to China, India has demographic development on its side. China will peak just below 1.5 billion people in the next decade, before decreasing to 1.3 billion people by 2050. As a result of this development, China’s dependency ratio will challenge the country’s development, similarly to what we’ve seen in Europe and the West more generally. In opposition to this, by 2050, India will be home to an estimated 1.7 billion people, and its dependency ratio is actually declining. While India will remain young, China will become old. Secondly, while India’s infrastructure is much weaker, its potential for growth is greater as a result. Thirdly, despite its political problems, India is a democratic nation, and fostering relationships with the US and Europe will be much easier.
India, however, must deal with several hurdles before truly becoming a global player. India’s domestic political developments are worrying. India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi overwhelmingly won the May 2019 elections, ensuring control over the country’s future. Modi has been accused of boosting his popularity by implementing Hindu nationalist policies in a multireligious and multicultural country, which already has a history of ethnic conflicts. Moreover, his illiberal inclinations are concerning. Political instability in spite of Modi’s rule is a factor of Indian politics, directing the policy focus inwards.
At the same time, his nationalistic attitude is reflected in India’s approach to foreign relations, and in global governance and the development of global trade. India has high tariffs and a strongly nationalistic industrialisation strategy, and trade negotiations between the EU and India have been delayed several times.
India’s foreign policy has a strong focus on neighbouring countries, especially on China’s rise. Furthermore, India is in many ways still a developing country, with undeniable potential, but far behind China. The demographic advantage India will hold in the future will also serve as a challenge with the increasing environmental problems and pressure on basic infrastructure and agriculture. China’s influence concerns India, limits its agenda, and has a strong impact on India’s self-confidence as a global player.
For the EU, India can offer great economic opportunities. India has an increasing interest in finding global allies, not least because of China. The EU and India have already set a pragmatic agenda to boost EU-India relations in their roadmap to 2025. While India’s future global role is unclear, both the EU and its individual member states have a lot to gain in enhancing cooperation with India and moving Indian relations higher in their political agenda. India might be, in future decades, the “next big thing” after China. Europeans should be ready for it.Tomi Huhtanen China Foreign Policy India Leadership
While the EU searches for a stronger partnership, India’s future global role remains unclear
27 Jan 2021
On 25 November 2020, a majority of the European Parliament approved my report on improving the efficiency of development aid. The report puts efficiency and effectiveness back at the centre of development cooperation. It also establishes conditionality for third country recipients of development aid to promote joint priorities as well as EU policy objectives on, inter alia, migration management.
According to the UNHCR, almost 80 million people are currently displaced from their homes. While the COVID-19 pandemic has substantially reduced the number of irregular migrants reaching the Union’s shores, the numbers are still higher than those prior to 2015. In addition, EU agencies project that an increase of migrants will occur once the pandemic is under control. Economic migration is likely to continue to dominate irregular arrivals to the European Union for the foreseeable future.
Migration is, however, not limited to EU borders. As highlighted by the New Pact on Migration and Asylum, it is an issue we need to address globally and in cooperation with countries of origin and transit. As the world’s largest donor of development aid, the EU has an important part to play on the global arena.
Provisions I put forward in the report provide the European Union with guidance to improve migration management, including safe and orderly return, with due respect to fundamental human rights. It is the duty of a nation to accept the return of its citizens. As such, cooperation on returns belongs to the notion of good governance.
In addition, conditionality may also be applied to achieve the common objectives of eradicating poverty, reducing vulnerability to climate and environmental changes, and developing economic and trade policies. Such sustainable development in third countries may, in the long term, reduce the root causes of migration. Reducing the number of displaced people will be the most efficient way to secure safe, orderly, and manageable migration.
Conditionality provides the Union with an option to respond when a third country acts in a way that is harmful to European objectives.
Conditionality also serves a greater principle. As a member of the European Parliament and chair of the development committee, it is my firm belief that every euro spent must provide the highest level of efficiency. On this merit, EU institutions have agreed to include rule of law conditionality in the next long-term budget, with regard to cohesion funds spent within the EU. This central principle is now also enshrined in the development aid policy.
Let me stress that I would prefer conditionality not to be applied, but rather for our third country partners to promote joint objectives based on the spirit of cooperation. However, conditionality provides the Union with an option to respond when a third country acts in a way that is harmful to European objectives.
I am convinced that the Parliament resolution in question will be an important tool for the EU as a geopolitical actor, with regard to both effective development aid and migration policies.Tomas Tobé Development Foreign Policy Migration
Making Development Aid Dependent on Cooperation on Migration
26 Jan 2021
The transatlantic relationship has been subjected to a significant stress test under the presidency of Donald Trump. Across Europe, the initial reaction to the election of Joe Biden was almost universally positive. Yet analysts tend to agree that there can be no return to the status quo ante. The world as we knew it under the Obama administration has changed in very fundamental ways, notably with the rise of an assertive China.
Moreover, the Trump presidency has exacerbated the sharp polarisation of political preferences within the US. Bipartisan foreign policy is a feature of the past. Europe cannot assume there will be policy continuity after the next presidential election in 2024. It is time to take stock of transatlantic values and interests—which are not always in harmony—and to attempt to forge a new type of partnership across the Atlantic, one more geared to the realities of an emerging multipolar world.
Europe should not abandon its attempts to develop a greater measure of autonomy from—or non-dependence on—the US. And the US should not see such yearnings as threatening. There will be many issues on which Europe and a Biden administration will work in harmony.
But there will also be policy areas where friction could well arise, most notably over trade, China, Russia and the future of NATO. It would be in the interests of neither the US nor the EU for the latter to revert to the type of followership that has characterised its relations with the US since the Cold War. Only by recognising the distinctiveness of US and European values and interests will it be possible for the two sides to move towards a more balanced partnership that will confer true strength on their relationship.Defence Foreign Policy Transatlantic
Europe and Biden: Towards a New Transatlantic Pact?
20 Jan 2021
As part of the KAS-MC Discussion club, which had its 5th edition in 2020, the Martens Centre and the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung Belarus produced a publication bringing together three Belarusian experts to shed some light on the ongoing situation in their country. All three contributions are in both English and Russian.Eastern Europe EU-Russia Foreign Policy
The Political Turmoil in Belarus: Current Realities and Foreseeable Prospects
11 Dec 2020
Famagusta was one of the most beautiful resorts in the Mediterranean Sea, attracting tourists from all over the world to its sun-kissed golden sand beaches. On the morning of 20 July 1974, this all changed. 40,000 heavily armed Turkish troops illegally landed at Kerynia and invaded northern Cyprus. On 14 August, Turkey launched its second offensive, under the code name “Attila II”, occupying Morphou, Famagusta, and Karpasia. Thousands of Greek Cypriots lost their lives, hundreds went missing, and 200,000 people were forced to abandon their homes. Since then, Famagusta, “the pearl of the East Mediterranean”, has become a ghost city.
Famagusta was much more than just a touristic resort. It was considered the cultural centre of Cyprus, while its Port attracted the largest business volume in the country, functioning as an important commercial hub until 1974.
Famagusta has a long and continuous history of 36 centuries, predominantly shaped by its Greek and Christian past. A large number of Christian refugees, fleeing the downfall of Acre (1291) in Palestine, transformed it from a tiny village into one of the richest cities in Christendom. In 1489, the Venetians made Famagusta the capital of Cyprus. The old walled and bastioned town contains some of the finest examples of medieval military architecture in existence. Famagusta fell to the Ottomans after a bitter and prolonged siege in 1570–71, followed by the British who ruled the island from 1878 to 1960, when Cyprus became independent. Under the British administration, a modern suburb called Varosha bloomed south of Famagusta, as a commercial centre and tourist resort.
During the Turkish invasion in 1974, the Turkish Air Force began bombing Famagusta and its troops approached Varosha. The inhabitants of the city were forced to flee their homes, with the hope that they would return when the situation became safer. However, the Turkish army violently seized control of the resort and illegally fenced off the area. Entry has since been forbidden, other than for Turkish military and United Nations personnel. Since then, it has been used by Ankara as a bargaining chip in talks to resolve the Cyprus issue. A UN resolution from 1984 called for the return of Varosha to UN control, and prohibits any attempt to resettle it by anyone other than those who were forced out, its legal inhabitants.
The United Nations has, in fact, set a very specific framework for the return of Varosha to its lawful inhabitants as early as 1979, through the High-Level Agreement between the then leaders of the two communities (Greek and Turkish). The resettlement of Varosha by its lawful inhabitants, under UN auspices, was set as a priority and “without awaiting the outcome of the discussion on other aspects of the Cyprus problem”.
On 8 October 2020, following the announcement made two days prior, Turkey illegally and in violation of the relevant UNSC Resolutions, extended the license for entry to the coastal front of Varosha. This is a provocative action against not only the Republic of Cyprus, but against the EU, the UN, and any sense of human rights and international law. Subsequently, this development raised significant obstacles in the ongoing effort for a resumption of reunification talks. The “re-opening” of the fenced area of Varosha, under conditions of military occupation, reveals Ankara’s real intention to permanently divide Cyprus.
This intention was confirmed by Erdoğan himself. On 15 November 2020, the Turkish President, in an action of unprecedented provocation, “held a picnic” at Varosha, calling for a “two-state” solution in Cyprus, causing public outrage in Cyprus – even among Turkish Cypriots – and drawing condemnation from the international community.
Once again, Erdoğan is behaving like a bully. Turkey is further distancing itself from EU standards and values, not only by violating human rights and dignity within Turkey, but also by manipulating the crisis in Syria, weaponising refugees against the EU, openly threatening the territorial integrity of Greece and Cyprus, and fuelling the conflicts in Libya and the Caucasus. Finally, the Turkish President has proceeded with insulting remarks against EU leaders. Erdoğan’s regime follows anachronistic methods, a dangerous mix of venomous rhetoric and aggressive actions.
History has taught us that appeasement policy can sometimes lead to a greater threat of war. Turkey’s aggressivity is becoming bolder by the day. The time for words has passed. The EU cannot shy away from its responsibilities. The European Parliament has paved the way for this with its latest resolution (11/2020), on Turkey’s recent illegal activities in the wider East Mediterranean. Now, it is the EU Council’s turn in December. We must re-define Europe’s strategy towards Turkey for the short, medium and long-term. Tough sanctions are the only way forward.Lefteris Christoforou Margarita Kaimaklioti Foreign Policy Mediterranean
Erdoğan’s Picnic at Varosha: Europe Must Stand Tall Against Turkish Provocations
07 Dec 2020
China is no longer only a partner, but increasingly also a systemic competitor, due to the continued enforcement of state capitalism under Xi Jinping. The hope for change through trade has not been fulfilled, as the growing influence of the Chinese Communist Party shows. Trust in the Chinese leadership has been eroded in recent years due to an aggressive global raw materials strategy, expansive moves in Southeast Asia, the Belt and Road Initiative, the 17+1 initiative, and the interference with Hong Kong most recently.China Economy Foreign Policy Trade
For a More Robust Approach Towards China in European Trade and Investment Policy
28 Sep 2020
Since 1 September, the Hungarian government has closed its borders due to the rise in new COVID-19 cases. However, there is an exception made for those citizens of Slovakia, Czechia, and Poland, who work, study, or travel to Hungary. The decision has provoked a reaction from the EC, who calls to respect the integrity and non-discriminatory nature of the Schengen area. How do you perceive this unilateral step from Hungary, especially since its neighbours, such as Serbia and Romania, have many more COVID-19 cases, and yet their borders remain open?
Dániel Bartha – Executive Director, Centre for Euro-Atlantic Integration and Democracy, Hungary: The government was rushing to make a highly visible decision. They even failed to inform Hungarian authorities, such as the Border protection agency, on time. The decision to keep V4 relations unchanged was based on political considerations and the experience from the spring when these countries had much lower numbers. Later, the decision was corrected, but it shed light on some dysfunctionality in decision-making. I wouldn’t consider it an anti-EU move, although the EU should be criticised for not using the summer period to further harmonise the decision-making process regarding the closure of Schengen borders, which gives more room to such unilateral decisions.
Vladimír Bartovic, Director, EUROPEUM, Czechia: I am generally against the closure of borders between EU member states. Of course, all countries have the right to protect their citizens from the spread of COVID-19, but in my opinion, countries should demand a negative COVID-19 test, rather than closing the borders.
I agree with the European Commission that Hungary’s decision to give exemptions based on citizenship is discriminatory. If there are some exemptions, they should be based on residence rather than citizenship, and well-argued from the epidemiological point of view.
Miriam Lexmann, Member of the European Parliament, Slovakia: The unilateral closure of borders in March 2020 has highlighted the need for EU Member States to coordinate or, at the very least, to communicate their intentions in advance. No doubt, the closure of borders opens a moral question of whether freedom of movement is more important than the protection and health of citizens. Yet, there are mechanisms in place for situations where Member States must re-impose internal Schengen borders. Therefore, I think that such steps should be coordinated within the EU in advance, and according to set mechanisms, so that citizens and other countries impacted by the situation can adequately prepare.
Much attention is being paid to the Czech Senate Speaker Miloš Vystrčil, who made an official visit to Taiwan, accompanied by a large delegation of politicians, businessmen, and scientists. According to Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, Vystrčil will pay a very high price for his visit to Taiwan, thereby not respecting the One-China Principle. His trip was supported by the Slovak president, along with French and German officials. Can we expect that the Visegrád Group will adopt a less assertive approach towards China?
Dániel Bartha: Hungary will be the last country to join the V4 on this issue, but if it is necessary, it will show solidarity with Czechia. Although 16+1 can be declared dead, the government is still convinced that keeping the country in the Euro-Atlantic alliance and having good relations with China are simultaneously possible, despite EU and NATO membership officials often referring to a neutral status. Obviously, this position is not sustainable, but it’s important to understand that economic interests are the only aspect which the government considers. While the economy will contract by 7 to 10%, and Hungarian trade volume was falling in every direction, we have recorded a 20% growth in import volume and a 4% growth in export to China.
I believe Chinese and Czech relations are poisoned, and we have passed the point of return for good relations. It is now a matter of time before Slovakia will join Czechia on this issue. Due to its geopolitical interests, Poland will support the US position on China, which will soon leave Hungary alone on this issue within the V4.
Vladimír Bartovic: How to approach relations with China was, is, and certainly will be a very divisive issue, not just among the different countries, but also between different political parties, and even between different politicians within individual parties, as the Czech example demonstrates. The Czech Senate Speaker Mr. Vystrčil’s journey to Taiwan was criticised by other Czech representatives, such as President Zeman or Prime-Minister Babiš. But the Chinese reaction, consisting of blackmailing and threatening Mr. Vystrčil and other members of the delegation, crossed all lines of acceptable diplomatic behaviour. I would have expected more solidarity from the Visegrád states’ representatives, or even from the EU as a whole in this case. Visegrád foreign ministers could have declared that the language used by Minister Wang Yi is unacceptable. On the other hand, I do not expect any changes in the approach of V4 countries towards China in reaction to this incident.
Miriam Lexmann: As was stated in an open letter I initiated with Alexandr Vondra (Czech Republic/ECR) in support for Mr. Vystrčil and signed by nearly 70 political leaders worldwide, all sovereign countries have the right to determine their relations with Taiwan without the interference of the Chinese Communist Party.
Given the vulnerabilities exposed during the current pandemic, the realities of the corrosive impact of Chinese investment in some countries, and empty promises in others, as well as the arrogance of Chinese diplomats and officials, there is an ongoing shift in opinion about the Chinese authoritarian regime within the Visegrád Group. There is, however, the need for an EU-wide re-assessment of our relations with China. Therefore, it is not simply a question for the Visegrád Four whether to adopt a more assertive and principled approach, but for the whole of the EU.Eastern Europe EU Member States Foreign Policy
Are the Visegrád Four ready for a new approach towards China?
14 Sep 2020
The departure of the UK from the EU is taking place at a time when the Union is ramping up its own ambitions in the field of security and defence. The EU is pursuing the goal of strategic autonomy to make itself a more influential actor on the world stage. It has initiated a number of programmes, such as Permanent Structured Cooperation and the European Defence Fund, with the aim of spending its defence euros more productively. These European initiatives may well drive the UK further away from the EU as they embody the very integration that had driven the UK to distance itself from the Continent in the first place. Yet this article will argue that the EU still needs to engage the important military capabilities of the UK to be successful in its new ventures and that the UK will also be exposed to many of the security threats that will keep the EU busy in the future.
Read the full article of the June 2020 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.Jamie Shea Defence European Union Foreign Policy
European Defence After Brexit: A Plus or a Minus?
01 Sep 2020
Revolution is unfolding in Belarus. We just witnessed its first phase – Alyaksandr Lukashenka has been struck by a landslide defeat, with 60-80 percent of voters choosing Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya. Lukashenka is trying to steal this victory from Belarusians, so the revolution continues in the streets and with strikes. People are going to the streets to defend their victory.
Some views can be heard in Lithuania and elsewhere in the West, that this revolution is useful for the Kremlin, that it may even have been orchestrated by the Kremlin’s secret service itself. Some believe that Lukashenka is the sole guarantor of the sovereignty of Belarus and that the alternative candidates are the Kremlin’s project. This way, the Kremlin wanted to weaken Lukashenka and drive him to beg for the Kremlin’s assistance, they say.
These are quite absurd conspiracy insinuations. The driving force of the Belarusian revolution is not one or another candidate, but the radical change within Belarusian society itself. A new civic nation has been born in Belarus. This civic nation is the true leader of the revolution, and Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya is its symbol.
The unconscious, and totally wrong willingness to accept the continuation of Lukashenka’s rule in Belarus reminds me of the Sąjūdis era, more than 30 years ago. Back then some in the West would call on Lithuanians to “slow down” our pro-independence revolution, as it was harmful to Gorbachev. They would say to us ‘we have to preserve Gorbachev because he is the guarantor of perestroika, your revolution is damaging him’. It is only normal that we did not listen to such insinuations. It is good that today, Belarusians are not so keen either to listen to similar “advice”.
And now on to the main question – why, in my firm belief, is the Belarusian revolution nothing but a big headache and a nightmare for the Kremlin?
First, because the birth of the civic nation in Belarus is “contagious” for Russia. We see persistent protests in Khabarovsk, which are very similar to the ones in Belarus – without clear leadership or organisation, but still continuing. Important elections are approaching in Russia – regional elections this September and Duma elections next year. Vladimir Putin understands very well these processes in Belarus, and how they constitute a signal that the authoritarian regimes in the whole post-Soviet hemisphere are approaching their “expiry date”.
Second, Putin must be aware that he is entrapped: he cannot support the revolution in Belarus (because a similar revolution may start in Russia), which is why he congratulates Lukashenka. However, Lukashenka is as toxic for Belarusians as Yanukovych was for Ukrainians in 2013. Back then, Putin supported Yanukovych, occupied Crimea and part of the Donbas, and became the No. 1 enemy of the Ukrainian nation (“Putin – chuilo”). He actually “helped” Ukrainians to unite and choose the Western path of development.
The same may happen to Putin with regard to Belarus – he cannot support the revolution, but by supporting Lukashenka he would alienate all those who voted against Lukashenka, making them eager to look for friendship elsewhere, not in Moscow.
Putin “helped” to consolidate the pro-Western Ukraine. Ukraine has finally left the post-imperial realm of the Kremlin with Putin’s “help” in 2014. Now it’s Belarus’ turn.
It’s a zugzwang for the Kremlin – whatever it does, it’s bad: if it supports Lukashenka, it will alienate the Belarusian nation; if it supports the revolution in Belarus, a similar fate awaits in Russia.
Bad times for autocrats: in Minsk and in Moscow!
Zhyve Belarus!Andrius Kubilius Democracy EU-Russia Foreign Policy
Belarus: A trap for the Kremlin?
12 Aug 2020
The role of small member states in EU foreign policy is increasingly being challenged, especially in view of the reforms being proposed to make the EU more effective as an international actor. These reforms, if adopted, will require the small Central and Eastern European member states, such as Bulgaria, to rethink their old foreign-policy strategies and practices. Instead of band-wagoning and balancing conflicting interests, these small member states will have to learn to be more proactive, to build their reputations and to form alliances if they want to continue to have any influence on EU foreign policy. These issues are discussed in the light of the EU sanctions adopted against Russia in the aftermath of the Ukrainian–Russian conflict of 2014.
Read the full article of the June 2020 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.Jean F. Crombois EU Member States EU-Russia Foreign Policy
Jean F. Crombois
Lilliput Effect Revisited: Small States and EU Foreign Policy
30 Jul 2020
On 26 June 1963, the then-President of the United States John F. Kennedy delivered his famous “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech, underlining the support of the Free World for West Berlin and West Germany.
47 years later, the Special Procedure 50 of the UN Human Rights Council has issued a statement denouncing Beijing’s repression of Tibet and Hong Kong. The statement came just before the National Security Law in Hong Kong was approved by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress.
The Pearl of the Orient has suddenly earned a new name, as the “West Berlin” of the New Cold War.
However, unlike in West Berlin, Beijing did not build a wall to prevent its corporations from investing in Hong Kong, nor did it ask foreigners to leave the territory. Beijing has instead always proclaimed that the National Security Law’s introduction was to provide extra assurance of the famed “One Country, Two Systems” doctrine coined by Deng Xiaoping, a leader China has long outgrown.
However, it is precisely this kind of attitude that should push the European Union to act – beyond expressing “grave concern” – and take the Hong Kong question seriously. The enactment of the National Security Law is a litmus test of the EU’s capacity to defend its interests and universal values in the context of the “Great Decoupling”.
International relations academics and EU specialists agree that contemporary EU-China relations are determined by two factors (as suggested by Michael Yahuda). First, the tyranny of distance, and second, the primacy of trade. In short, owing to the lack of geopolitical ambition of the EU and the absence of shared geographical boundaries (terrestrial or maritime), the protection and promotion of EU economic interests in China is the core driver of EU action towards China. As a result, the European Union has long been satisfied with the current model of cooperation. In the field of trade and investment, the EU opts for a good trade agreement with the absence of a human rights clause (from the Trade and Cooperation Agreement signed in 1985, to the long-awaited conclusion of the EU-China Comprehensive Agreement on Investment). Unlike its “selective engagement” approach with Russia, the European Union currently does not link its business presence in China with better political development and social reform – not to mention the suspected violation of citizens’ safety in Hong Kong.
The Pearl of the Orient has suddenly earned a new name, as the “West Berlin” of the New Cold War.
However, the new reality after the enactment of the National Security Law in Hong Kong demands exactly this. As detailed in Article 38, the Law will have extraterritorial effects, as it applies to offences committed outside Hong Kong by a person who is not a permanent resident of the Region. For example, any person who joined the Martens Centre’s recent online webinar discussing the situation in Hong Kong is at risk of prosecution under Article 38, as participating can be viewed as provoking hatred, or even sanctions towards Beijing. The National Security Law is without a doubt a threat against the fundamental rights and freedoms enjoyed by European citizens, political parties, think-tanks, or activist groups. The message from Beijing is clear: anyone who wishes to do business in Hong Kong must respect China’s concept of national security – regardless of that person’s nationality or their locality.
The National Security Law impacts European corporations as well. According to the latest implementation rules, the authorities are empowered to “freeze, restrain, confiscate, and forfeit any property related to offences endangering national security”. They also may require foreign political organisations and agents to provide information on activities concerning Hong Kong. The Law deliberately creates a dilemma and makes it clear to European companies. If a company surrenders information to the authorities, they violate their clients’ goodwill. If a company does not cooperate, its business interests in Hong Kong and mainland China will suffer. Beijing is effectively leveraging the West’s extensive business network and economic interests in Hong Kong, in order to test the European Union’s ability to balance its pursuit of commercial benefits and commitment to universal values.
From Beijing’s perspective, should European companies and EU Member States kowtow to the new arrangement in Hong Kong, Beijing will have full confidence that economic interests will always serve as good diplomatic leverage against the EU. In this case, the comprehensive investment agreement in its current form serves the foremost political interests of Beijing. Maintaining the status quo does not give the European Union any competitive edge against China’s sharp power in Europe. Only by acting in one voice and addressing the Hong Kong question seriously, can the European Union change the status quo and explore new possibilities in EU-China relations.
This article does not advocate for sanctions against Beijing, nor does it ask the EU to provide a UK-esque lifeboat policy to the citizens of Hong Kong. Instead, this thesis pleads for Europeans to act with one voice, and for the European Union to re-discover its diplomatic capacity, rooted in the commanding strength of the Common Market, and its formidable global regulatory regime. As history once showed, any hesitation would turn Europe into an ideological battlefield. Should there be a New Cold War in the 21st century, Brussels ought to utilise its structural strength to protect the very foundation of Europe’s peace, prosperity, and the well-being of its citizens.
Hong Kong Global Research Council
More than “West Berlin”: The EU should take the Hong Kong question seriously
27 Jul 2020
Despite the triumphant mood of Russian officials and state media about the recent constitutional ‘referendum’ results, no one in Russian civil society seems genuinely impressed. The consequences of the vote for Putin’s future may be drastically different from what he expected.
A few things are important to understand. Primarily, this was not a ‘referendum’, but rather an opinion poll with fairly relaxed rules and a near-complete absence of independent supervision over voting and vote counting. It was exempt from the standard rules of holding elections regulated by the law, and was instead regulated by a vague instruction of the Central Elections Commission. This body had strictly limited observers to those de facto appointed by the authorities, banned media from being present at the vote count, and allowed very relaxed rules for casting ballots (voting from home, voting electronically, even voting in public parks, shopping malls, etc). The vote was held over 7 days, with no real control over possible tampering with the ballots during that period. A pocketful of irregularities are explained in detail by the independent NGO Golos, who concluded that this ‘vote’ cannot be taken seriously by any reasonable standard.
Despite the fact that Putin wants to portray this ‘vote’ as his personal triumph, authorities and state media have deliberately hidden its real purpose from the people. As Golos correctly stated, most ‘information materials’ concentrated on the populist amendments to the Constitution (pensions, wages, animal rights protection, etc.), which only constitute about 10% of the total amendments. Major changes to the system of power – including the extension of Putin’s possible term of office to 2036 – were barely mentioned at all. There are recorded cases of exit poll interviews with voters who voted in favour of the amendments, yet had no idea that Putin’s term extension was included in the package (videos like that are widely available online, like this one).
It is in fact a very open question what Russians really voted for. Public opinion on the most important amendment, the extension of Putin’s term in office, is sharply split, unlike opinion on the populist amendments which are largely supported. But the real purpose of the vote, as mentioned above, was carefully hidden.
Then comes the fraud. Sergey Shpilkin, a renowned electoral mathematician who has carefully analysed all Russian elections for well over a decade by examining voting results anomalies, concludes that about half of the ‘yes’ votes were rigged. This was especially easy to pull off this time due to the relaxed rules of the ‘referendum’.
The hard reality for Putin is that the public is aware of this. No one was convinced by the results announced, since everybody saw how the fraud took place, and pressure on state-affiliated employees and their relatives to vote ‘yes’ was truly enormous this time. One thing that was visibly lacking in Russia during the days of the vote was enthusiasm to support Vladimir Putin – one can hardly find even a few drops of it in the ocean of voting fraud and compulsion.
And yet, despite all this, 21% of Russians according to official results, and 35% according to estimates of real voting by Mr. Shpilkin, have voted ‘No’. That is deeply disturbing news for Putin, who, in previous years, had tried to dwell on the assumption that his opponents in society are measured in single-digit percentage points.
What next? Record low support for Putin and continuing negative trends give the opposition strong tailwinds in the upcoming political battles. In the forthcoming ‘real’ elections regulated by election law – such as the regional elections of this September and upcoming State Duma elections in 2021 – Putin will face an uphill battle of a magnitude which he probably never experienced before. In hindsight, the Moscow municipal ballot and ensuing protests of 2019 will look like a light rehearsal compared to this.
Putin also understands this. In response, he keeps modifying electoral rules, making it harder for independent candidates to get registered, and is considering applying the recently tested 7-day voting period to all future elections (which makes it effectively impossible to safeguard ballot boxes from fraud). But the opposition is now much more skilled to bypass novel obstacles, and, more importantly, we now have stronger backing from civil society than ever before. For starters, the Navalny Live YouTube channel now enjoys around 10 million unique viewers a month, making it a truly strong competitor to state propaganda (whose viewership numbers are fading). We have been tested through repression and intimidation and can withstand it.
Difficult times lie ahead, and Putin’s romance with Russia is over. He completely failed to revive it with a totally fraudulent and unconvincing ‘constitutional vote’.Vladimir Milov Democracy Foreign Policy Values
Putin’s referendum: what next?
06 Jul 2020
While most of the world underwent some degree of confinement due to the spread of COVID-19, the Belarusian government not only denied the existence of the virus, it actually continued with business as usual, scheduling the country’s presidential election for August 9. While in the past, Lukashenka’s victory was a given, this time the election’s outcome is not as predictable. For the first time in 26 years, there are real contenders who could challenge the sitting President.
In order to qualify for the election, candidates must secure a minimum of 100,000 signatures, which will be verified on July 14. Popular YouTube blogger Sergei Tikhanovski was considering joining the race, but since he was detained and then banned from running, it seems there will be two candidates allowed to go forward, besides those controlled by the government. They are the former Chairman of Belgazprombank, Viktor Babariko, (also currently detained) and the former leader of the Belarusian IT hub Hi-Tech Park, former ambassador to the United States, and Deputy Head of the Foreign Ministry, Valeri Tsepkalo. The surprising thing about these names is that they are not part of the opposition – they are regime insiders, members of the business elite.
While jailing opposition leaders, intimidating independent media, and cracking down on peaceful protests continues to be the modus operandi of Lukashenka, this constitutes a deeper development that the regime cannot control. Belarusians are discontent with the government and are taking their frustration to the streets. The hundreds of people demonstrating against Lukashenka’s re-election demonstrate their courage and strong motivation for change, especially when considering the unorthodox methods of repression employed by the government.
Years of economic stagnation, a pessimistic economic forecast of a 4 to 5% decline in the country’s GDP by the end of the year, increasing pressure from Russia, and a disregard for fundamental freedoms have led civil society to actively voice their opposition to the establishment’s methods. The fact that two other candidates from the regime’s inner circle stand ready to challenge the status quo is a strong political signal.
It is difficult not to draw similarities between what is happening in Belarus and the Revolution of Dignity in Ukraine back in 2014. Belarusian civil society is expressing its dissatisfaction with the lack of democracy, close ties to Russia, and abuse of freedoms by the government – a very similar picture to what we saw on Majdan Square during Yanukovych’s rule. In the worst-case scenario, Lukashenka can decide to follow Yanukovych’s footsteps, and resort to using violence against protesters, but too many eyes are watching. Several MEPs issued a statement on Belarus on June 18, calling for a fair campaign and a fair election. The EU and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) both have condemned the crackdown on peaceful protests.
Looking back at the Ukrainian experience, we can definitely say that a push for change from civil society can be very powerful and lead to significant developments. In the Belarusian case, it does not necessarily mean regime change. Lukashenka’s demise has been predicted several times in the past, but he has survived to this day. However, it is important that Belarusian people understand that they are standing at a crossroads between the status quo of an authoritarian regime and a democratically elected President. “Choosing” the regime means remaining in Russia’s orbit, who resorts to blackmail if things don’t go as planned. Indeed, the Kremlin has cut oil flows to Belarus earlier this year, after the collapse of last year’s talks between Russia and Belarus over forming a “union state”.
For the elections to be free, fair, and transparent, all candidates should have equal access to independent media, which unfortunately will not be the case. Opposition leaders are being detained, threatened and silenced. Nevertheless, long queues to place a signature for a candidate, despite COVID-19, have shown that Belarusians highly value democracy and structural reforms. A poll conducted by independent media outlets, later banned, placed Lukashenka with only 6% support within the country.
As in the case of Ukraine, there is no magic spell to transition from repression of political opponents and peaceful protesting, to full democracy – it takes time, strong will, and perseverance. But having the option of choosing a President freely is a prerogative of the Belarusian people, one that the citizens are fighting for.
Belarus’ southern neighbour, Ukraine, has undoubtedly beat the old corrupt system of elections, as its people have now voted freely in two Presidential elections since the protests on Majdan. The country still has a long way to go in terms of reforms, but a democratically elected President is the first and most important step towards success.
Belarus would benefit immensely from the respect of democratic values, closer ties to the EU, structural reforms, and a break from the past. After 26 years in power, it’s time for Lukashenka to accept the new direction that Belarusian citizens are asking for. Should he win the election, he must let go of the old ways and embrace the fundamental freedoms that the country deserves.Anna Nalyvayko Democracy Foreign Policy Society Values
Curtain Call for Lukashenka?
29 Jun 2020
The recent deployment of Russian fighter jets to Libya is a dangerous escalation of an already complicated and bloody conflict, with a surge in civilian casualties. The civil war raging in Libya has, in effect, created a situation where outside powers (mainly Russia and Turkey) are vying for control of Libya’s future and trying to expand their footholds in the Eastern Mediterranean. This escalation not only affects Libya, but it is also impeding on the effort of solving other regional issues such as illegal trafficking of both people and drugs, terrorism, and border disputes in the Maghreb and Sahel regions.Crisis European Union Foreign Policy Mediterranean
State of play in the Libyan Civil War
19 Jun 2020
For as long as the EU has had a China policy to speak of, it has been ambiguous. The EU’s most recent China strategy calls the country “a partner, a competitor, and a systemic rival.” Europeans understand the challenge posed by Chinese mercantilism and its ambitions for continental hegemony. Even before the pandemic, most Europeans held an unfavourable view of China, with 70 percent of Swedes and 57 percent of Czechs seeing the country in a negative light. However, devising a coherent approach has proven difficult.
One reason is that even among the more ‘hawkish’ countries, there is not necessarily an understanding of what an effective European response should resemble. For France, Chinese mercantilism is best confronted by mercantilism of a European variety: building European champions and tossing aside competition and state rules. But that is a no-go for governments of smaller countries wary of China – say, Sweden – who nevertheless understand that European monopolies showered with public funds are a costly and ineffective response to the challenge at hand.
Another reason is a persistent distrust of US President Donald Trump. Joining forces with the United States is a losing political proposition as long as America is seen as erratic, mercurial, and primarily concerned with its own bilateral trade deficit, instead of the broader economic and geopolitical challenges that China’s rise involves.
Yet, the current triangulation between Beijing and Washington often requires a denial of reality. At his recent press conference, the High Representative Josep Borrell claimed that Chinese leadership “do not have military ambitions and they do not want to use force and participate in military conflicts”, notwithstanding China’s recent grab of Indian territory and the militarisation of the South China Sea. Whom does one believe: Mr Borrell or one’s lying eyes?
The EU’s ambiguity has also provided a permission structure for member states to strike deals with China, which will harm the continent’s interests over the long term. Examples include Italy’s embrace of the Belt and Road initiative – or, more recently, the rushed and secretive decision by the Hungarian government to proceed with the construction of a Chinese-financed rail connection with Belgrade.
Finally, the lack of a principled China policy erodes the EU’s status as a champion of human rights and democracy around the world – a mantle which Europeans have been keen to carry in the era of ‘America First’. After years of pussyfooting around the status of Taiwan, Tibet, or the regime’s appalling treatment of the Uighur minority, the milquetoast criticism of China over its crackdown on Hong Kong is a case in point. An unambiguous violation of a commitment that was thought to carry the full force of international law requires more than “grave concern” and to “raise the issue in our continuing dialogue with China”, as Mr Borrell’s office put it.
With its heavy-handed ‘public diplomacy’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Beijing has squandered a lot of goodwill in Europe. “We should not shy away from naming and shaming” said Věra Jourová, the European Commission’s vice-president, regarding China’s disinformation efforts in the wake of the pandemic. Ms Jourová’s home country, Czechia, saw the Chinese regime seek to co-opt political and business elites for years, inviting a broad-based backlash after it overplayed its hand.
The current situation is Europe’s opportunity to rethink and step up. The simultaneous invocation of ‘partnership’, ‘competition’, and ‘systemic rivalry’ in the EU’s relationship with China is not sustainable. Partnership presupposes trust and the existence of common goals. Competitors have different interests but adhere to shared rules of the game. Conversely, a ‘systemic rival’, as the Greens’ MEP Reinhard Bütikofer correctly put it, “just wants to win.”
Nobody expects the EU to embark on a Trump-led China crusade or to ‘decouple’ itself from Chinese trade and investment flows. Yet, clear guidance for member states on Chinese investment in critical sectors, whether they be infrastructure, finance, or tech, would be helpful. Similarly, a commitment to exclude Huawei from 5G networks across the bloc and joining the UK’s bourgeoning initiative to get the world’s leading democracies to cooperate on technological alternatives to Huawei are worthwhile endeavours.
The EU ought to be ready to walk away from the mirage of an investment treaty with China, currently in its 30th negotiating round. The EU wants China to scrap quantitative restrictions, equity caps, and joint venture requirements currently imposed on European companies. Also, EU businesses ought to be able to “compete on an equal footing when operating in China” by achieving “non-discriminatory treatment, prohibition of performance requirements – in other words, measures requiring investors to behave in a certain way or to achieve certain outcomes (including those leading to forced technology transfer) – and equal participation in standard-setting work.”
Unfortunately, those practices are central to China’s state capitalism. The absence of noticeable progress since the decision was taken to start negotiations in 2012 shows that no matter how hard the EU presses for “full reciprocity”, a non-discriminatory business environment in China is not on the table. Meanwhile, Beijing is eager to turn Western economies into its playground. After all, only 15 per cent of Chinese corporations listed on the Fortune Global 500 are in private hands.
European discussions over China would be much easier if the United States today were a trusted and reliable partner, providing strategic guidance, instead of the current administration’s petty displays of hostility towards the EU. The nature of China’s challenge to Europe, however, remains unchanged, regardless of who the current occupant of the White House is. Thus, it is imperative that Europeans use the window of opportunity provided by the pandemic and Beijing’s overreach to step up, hopefully to be joined in their efforts by the United States.
In the wake of COVID-19, the EU must do better to address China’s rise
18 Jun 2020
What should be the European Union’s reaction to the Hong Kong national security law adopted by China? More generally, what should be the EU stance towards China’s oppression of various minorities?
José María Aznar, Former Prime Minister of Spain:
“We should align our efforts with those of our allies, creating a diplomatic coalition to put pressure on Beijing and to warn against China’s failure to preserve Hong Kong’s autonomy and freedom under “one country, two systems”. We have to prepare possible economic sanctions as our response to China’s decision to impose new security legislation. Our response must be convincing to discourage possible Chinese coercion of minorities and especially of Taiwan.”
Carl Bildt, Former Prime Minister of Sweden:
“On the issue of Hong Kong, it’s important to coordinate our stance closely with international partners, especially with the UK, since it is very much the Sino-British Joint Declaration of 1984 that we must insist on being implemented to the letter and the spirit. Only by acting together, with a broader group of countries – including Canada and Australia – can we have any possible impact.”
Antonis Samaras, Former Prime Minister of Greece:
“When Hong Kong was integrated back to China in 1997, the general agreement was that nothing should challenge the overall sovereignty of China, and nothing should undermine the basic democratic principles already enjoyed by the people of Hong Kong, including the right of self-governance, their separate western-based judicial system, or the rights of various minorities. The Basic Law of Hong Kong – its formal term – was acceptable by all sides, and formalised the “one country, two systems” principle. This was a balanced approach that has worked so far and I do not believe it should change. I am gravely concerned about the repercussions of any attempt to undermine this agreement.”
Can the EU adopt a common strategy in response to China’s bid for global hegemony, and what should this be? Can Europe “decouple” from China?
José María Aznar: “For most of the last decade, the EU has looked at China through the prism of economic opportunity. Beijing’s transgressions, whether they are phasing out human rights in the country, dislodging South China Sea neighbours, stealing intellectual property from the West, or running propaganda and disinformation campaigns, have been ignored. Now, democratic nations need to make themselves less vulnerable to potential Chinese economic pressure and focus on security issues related to 5G networks. The EU’s common strategy must be based on three principles: 1) recognising that Europe’s values and interests are indivisible, 2) asking China’s government for reciprocity of market access, 3) cooperating with China on cross-cutting issues.”
Carl Bildt: “I don’t think China aspires to “global hegemony”, but they clearly seek to gain increased influence in different ways, particularly in their widely defined periphery. The EU’s policy must rest on two pillars. To engage with China on issues like climate, global trade, and global health, but also to stand firm on issues of human rights, democracy, and non-interference. However, “decoupling” is a strange concept – we are not “coupled” with China. And no one will be able to ignore what will eventually become the largest economy in the world.”
Antonis Samaras: “I believe we should have a common policy vis-à-vis China. But it should be an inclusive approach, not an exclusive one. Extensive dependence on international supply lines from China is not good for Europe or China. On the other hand, alienating China is also wrong. There is room for an “intermediate” solution, balancing the legitimate concerns from all sides.”
The US is pursuing an increasingly unilateral approach on China, which might put the EU in an uncomfortable position. How do you expect this to affect the transatlantic relationship, and what is the best policy for Europe?
José María Aznar: “The EU is in an uncomfortable position, but even with the current deep crisis in the transatlantic relationship, there can be no contest for the EU between its alliance with the world’s most powerful democracy, and a communist state that parades its contempt for European values. There is a strategic imperative to work together with the US, because the challenge posed by China will grow in the years to come, and only together can we safeguard the liberal international order.”
Carl Bildt: “We must develop our own approach, and the paper from March of last year is a good start. What is profoundly embarrassing is that the EU is often blocked by some member states from being critical towards certain Chinese policies, notably when it comes to human rights. We must also hope that there will be someone in the White House open to constructive dialogue with the EU on these issues, so that a common position can evolve.”
Antonis Samaras: “Europe is a long-standing trading partner and security ally of the United States. Europe is also a valuable trading partner of China. We will probably have to redefine both of these partnerships. However, most importantly, we must make them “compatible”. Europe can act as a valuable mediator between the US and China.”Crisis Democracy European Union Foreign Policy
How should the EU handle relations with China?
15 Jun 2020
We should not be worried about the emergence of China as a superpower, wielding influence and power at a comparable level to the United States. China’s geography will not allow it. Instead, we should be worried about China as a globally influential superpower, less powerful than the US, but still dominating East Asia, building a global bloc of like-minded, authoritarian countries, rivalling the rules-based international order and undermining democratic standards around the world.
In recent years, China has visibly increased its economic and political power. In some circles, the idea is emerging that China may become a superpower and regional hegemon comparable to the US. These fears are being highlighted by the seemingly ruthlessly effective way China is dealing with the COVID-19 crisis and how, allegedly, our Western democracies are a comparative failure.
China is now the second-largest economy in the world, it has begun to dominate numerous high-tech industrial sectors, and it is rapidly developing its military. Globally, it is the most important trade partner for countless countries. Its coordinated diplomatic efforts, inter alia through sharp power, make China able to leverage its stance better and become an increasingly influential player in global affairs. However, geography puts clear external and internal limits on China’s power.
China is a landlocked country, surrounded by rivals. The Korean Peninsula is inhabited by two countries with a history of hostility towards China. Japan is an island nation, with a strong blue-water navy, able to block China’s access to the Pacific and maybe even to the Indian Ocean. Taiwan is effectively a mountain stronghold, with a capable military. Without controlling Taiwan, it is effectively impossible to control the South China Sea, a strategic area for China’s security through which most of its trade passes. Over the Himalayas, there is India, a distinct civilisation with its own ambitions and nuclear arsenal. With Russia, China is competing for the post-Soviet space, which is hardly helping relations, even if their rapport has become friendlier recently. China also has numerous internal issues. For instance, people in Hong Kong do not want to be a part of Mainland China, and there is separatism in Xinjiang. China is also poor in natural resources and barely able to feed itself without being reliant on imports.
The Chinese momentum and the challenges for the EU
Still, even with its constraints, China’s rise is a challenge for the EU. America’s shrinking global presence changes a lot in the global balance of power. The US Navy may soon cease ensuring the freedom of the seas, a global public good that is essential for international trade. Due to the American retrenchment, the multipolar, unstable global system, with emerging great power rivalries, may unfold soon. China will be a very strong pole of power, that will have to be taken into every equation, especially the European one.
China is assertively and persistently fighting for global influence and, despite impediments, behaving like it wants to replace the US as the most powerful state in the international system. It is developing both its ‘Made in China 2025’ project and the Belt and Road Initiative, aimed at distorting world trade, by flooding it with price-dumped products. China is slowly becoming dominant in certain high-tech, high-value technology industries, like 5G and face-recognition. China is also spending more on defence and rapidly developing its military capabilities.
This coalesces with its diplomatic efforts, consisting of actions aimed at building an alternative global order, based on an alliance of countries, like Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, uniting against liberal democracies. China aims to undermine the legitimacy of the international, liberal, rules-based order, in order to gain more power. This should be vigorously countered. The EU needs to become more active, then reactive, and begin taking strong action against this threat.
Developing a European narrative and response
First of all, the EU needs to build a narrative to tackle China and other autocracies, that are aiming to delegitimise the current global order. It needs to be able to point out the numerous failures of autocracies, which are covered up by shiny construction projects, and point out the fact that there does not exist any viable and fair alternative to the international, rules-based global order. It also must be able to better illustrate the benefits that the current order yields, and the risks any alternatives may bring.
The EU also needs to engage in an economic action plan. This means introducing legal measures that would prohibit buy-outs of our economy’s crown jewels and innovative companies, by China’s state-backed entities. It also means stopping the development of 5G infrastructure by Huawei in Europe, and investing in alternatives like Nokia and Ericsson, even if it is more costly in the short term. There is also a need for an expansion of funding to be able to support the development of states in need of cash, especially those in Africa, but also in Europe. Challenging Chinese influence also means paying more attention to Asia and what is happening there, as Asia is home to a major share of global economic growth. Trade deals with Japan, Singapore, and ratifying the one with Vietnam should be just the beginning of enhanced cooperation with the region.
Moreover, if the EU will not take its security and defence seriously, that would mean engaging in an ambitious process to boost the member states military capabilities, as the efforts mentioned before, even if they are all undertaken, will not suffice. No one will be impressed, and especially not China, by empty talks about multilateralism, rules-based order and fair trade, if it is not backed up by hard power and if the is EU unable to take care of its own security.
China, as a strategic competitor of the EU, should not be appeased. It should be engaged with confidence and wit, as the future wellbeing of all Europeans depends on it.Jan Czarnocki Economy European Union Foreign Policy Security
Watch out and act fast: shaping the EU’s strategic response to China
14 May 2020
What does the Coronavirus mean for the EU as an international actor?
Jamie Shea, Senior Research Associate, Martens Centre:
“The crisis is still far from over, and this gives the EU time and opportunity to re-assert its relevance. Its institutions and their leaders should focus on clear objectives and persuade EU national leaders and their bureaucracies, currently beleaguered by COVID-19 pandemic management and lockdowns, to join this effort now.
The first objective concerns recovery. The severe economic contraction in the industrialised countries could tip the global economy into a prolonged depression. So, the primary role for the EU is to lead the G7 and G20 together with the international financial institutions to come up with a coordinated global strategy to restart the global economy as soon as the virus subsides. The EU can best engage China in this effort in a way that the US finds increasingly difficult. China is where the virus originated, and it is the first major economic powerhouse to recover and restart production. So, it has a particular responsibility to help the rest of the world. The EU will need to persuade China to re-capitalise the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank and fully open the Chinese market to foreign goods and services.
A second priority is to help Africa. African countries mostly lack the sanitary conditions, health infrastructure, and the possibility to self-isolate that richer countries enjoy. Yet if the pandemic is not contained in Africa with its rapidly rising population and exposure to climate change, migration flows, and jihadist extremism, the EU will have an even bigger security headache to deal with. COVID-19 would mutate and quickly spread back to Europe. So now is the time for the EU to develop a true health Marshall Plan for Africa and work with the World Health Organization (WHO), the African Union and the financial institutions and development agencies to elaborate an effective strategy before the pandemic runs into the millions and, like AIDS 20 years ago, brings entire African societies to the brink of collapse.
Finally, this pandemic will not be the last. The crisis has revealed multiple weaknesses in the global health management system from delays in sharing vital information, contradictory messaging and the spreading of fake news and disinformation, to uncoordinated responses and a lack of testing kits, respirators, and protective clothing. If the early stages of managing COVID-19 have been primarily national, emerging from it smoothly will need credible, authoritative guidance coming from international institutions. The EU should, therefore, lead an international ‘lessons learned’ exercise and push its conclusions robustly in the G7, G20, and UN bodies as well as regional organisations to ensure that the global community is better equipped to act early next time around. We need to mobilise more resources to lock down the pathogens before they spread beyond the point of origin. The EU can lead the way, first and foremost, by coordinating the crisis exit activities of its own 27 member states. It will then be in a stronger position to mobilise the rest of the world behind a better strategy for prevention.”
Giselle Bosse, Research Associate, Martens Centre:
“The picture of the EU as a failing, dysfunctional international actor in the COVID-19 crisis is misleading, at least up until now. The EU has minimal powers in the area of health, it can make recommendations, but member states are free to ignore them. And where it could, in areas of its legal competence, the Commission has already taken actions, for example, measures with regards to the lifting of export restrictions on medical equipment imposed by individual member states, or guidelines on borders to ensure the free movement of goods. The real challenge for the EU, the economic response to the crisis, is only just unfolding. This is an area in which the EU has significant competencies and instruments. Finding an agreement on financial rescue measures is not only crucial for the EU’s ability to offset the devastating economic consequences of COVID-19 and safeguard its standing as a major world trading power. Agreement on a joint economic response is also vital for trust and solidarity among the EU’s member states, which in turn is a precondition for a common EU foreign policy, including ongoing and future attempts to strengthen the EU’s autonomous security and defence capabilities.
Moreover, while much focus is (rightly) placed on containing COVID-19, saving lives and economic rescue, Human Rights Watch, among others, reminded the EU that ‘governments should avoid sweeping and overly broad restrictions on movement and personal liberty’ and cautioned against governments requesting movement data from mobile providers, which violates the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). To make things worse, on 30 March, Hungary passed a law that gives sweeping new powers to Prime Minister Viktor Orban to rule by decree, for an unlimited period of time. The manner in which the EU and its member states will handle human rights and democratic principles in the current crisis will send important signals internationally, and will very likely have implications for its credibility and legitimacy as a normative power.
In conclusion, much of the current criticism and depiction of the EU as a dysfunctional international actor in the COVID-19 crisis has been exaggerated, and often exploited for (geo-)political purposes. The current crisis will neither lead to the decline of the EU ‘as we know it’, nor will it fundamentally change global order or the EU’s geopolitical problems. However, the EU’s response to the crisis will send important signals beyond Europe, which can have significant implications for the credibility of the EU as an international actor. Such signals range from the EU’s commitment to multilateral trade (versus the EU’s ‘protectionist turn’) to its commitment to human rights and democracy (versus the toleration of illiberal governments and policies within the EU), its commitment to fighting climate change (versus calls to delay the Green Deal in times of economic crisis) and, above all, the member states’ commitment to social solidarity (versus national economic self-interest). How COVID-19 impacts the EU’s credibility as an international actor is (still) pretty much in its own hands.”
Jolyon Howorth, Senior Research Associate, Martens Centre:
“The pandemic is global; the response has been national/regional. The EU’s reputation for normative or soft power has been battered. The Union abandoned multilateral solidarity, even in the area (the welfare state) where it claimed superiority over other regimes. The EU, as an ‘actor’, has evaporated; member states closed borders and hoarded vital medical resources.
The crisis over finances replicated the Eurozone crisis, featuring a bitter internal struggle over the mutualisation of debt. Christine Lagarde initially declared it was ‘not the ECB’s responsibility’ to worry about German-Italian bond spreads. The refusal of the North to respond to Southern pleas for ‘Coronabonds’ poses an existential threat to the Union itself.
The crisis has demonstrated Asian efficiency and Western fumbling, highlighted by Trumpian denial. Transatlantic relations are in limbo. Logically, this should prompt a clear shift of EU strategy towards collective sovereignty and autonomy – faced with Beijing as a potential hegemon and Washington as a false friend. Yet, as a result of the crisis, the Union is uniquely ill-placed to pursue that path.
COVID-19 suggests the need for a total re-think of the balance of spending on defence and health. The ‘invisible enemy’ has demonstrated an exponentially greater need for protection against nature than against neighbours. The climate crisis awaits its turn on the stage.
The kaleidoscope has been shaken, and the pieces will take years to settle. Muddling through is henceforth akin to a death wish.”
Constantine Arvanitopoulos, Senior Research Associate, Martens Centre:
Europe is overwhelmed by a pandemic crisis of almost biblical proportions.
As countries are scrambling to deal with the immediate requirements of a colossal health emergency, an even greater threat looms on the horizon. Economists are warning us of the threat of an economic depression more significant than that of 1929.
Our response to the health crisis was not the best moment of European solidarity. We will always be haunted by the images of the military lorries carrying the dead of the city of Bergamo and European member states looking to China for health aid and equipment.
This pandemic now threatens to infect the European «body politic». In political philosophy’s great tradition, the analogy between disease and civil disorder was proposed to encourage rulers to show foresight (Machiavelli) and reason (Hobbes), to prevent fatal disorder.
In this tradition, the tragic loss of life should mobilise European leadership to prevent the recession from turning into a prolonged depression. As Mario Draghi wrote, unforeseen circumstances require a change of mindset, or as Keynes had put it, ‘when the facts change, I change my mind’. This is a war, and wars are financed by public debt. Otherwise, the cost of inaction will be devastating. Those in Europe that do not succumb to reason and adapt to change will have no one to blame but themselves.”
Niklas Nováky, Research Officer, Martens Centre:
“The COVID-19 pandemic has hit Europe hard. Its immediate consequences will be economic and social in character. National governments across Europe will have to adopt unprecedented stimulus packages, adjust their existing budgets, and increase their national debt to protect their populations and economies from the pandemic and its eventual fallout. Yet, the pandemic will impact other policy areas as well.
With regard to the EU’s security and defence policy, COVID-19 is likely to make the Union increasingly inward-looking for the foreseeable future. As during the global economic and the eurozone debt crises, political willingness in the EU to address various crises in the Union’s neighbourhood is likely to decrease, for example. European crisis management activities won’t cease entirely, of course, as demonstrated by the EU’s recent decision to launch Operation IRINI to monitor the UN arms embargo in Libya. Still, it will become harder to convince EU governments to contribute to various existing and potential new operations, especially if those operations don’t serve their direct national interests.
The level of ambition of some of the new defence initiatives that the EU has launched since 2016 is also likely to be downscaled. The initiatives in the most immediate danger are the European Defence Fund, the European Peace Facility, and military mobility as their funding levels haven’t yet been agreed upon for the 2021-2027 financial period. Even before COVID-19, several member states expressed unwillingness to finance these initiatives at the levels proposed by the European Commission. COVID-19 will increase the number of such countries, and it is conceivable that some of the initiatives might not receive any funding at all. After all, in one technical compromise proposal made during the February European Council, the budget for military mobility was slashed completely. If this happens, it will be a severe setback to the European Commission’s ambition to be geopolitical.”COVID-19 Crisis European Union Foreign Policy
What does the Coronavirus mean for the EU as an international actor?
08 Apr 2020
This policy brief argues that the EU risks negative consequences if it continues to let economic interests prevail over its stated aim of promoting human rights in its relations with Central Asia. The strengthening of authoritarian regimes in Central Asia has led to the growth of social tensions and an increase in the number of possible hotbeds of radicalisation in the region, both of which, in turn, pose direct threats to the EU in matters of security, the influx of migrants and the protection of investments. In order to address these challenges, and taking into account the influence of Russia and China in the region, the EU should increase the effectiveness of its projects in the fields of education, health care, civil and political freedoms, good governance, justice reform and support for local civil society. The EU must make it evident to Central Asian states that strengthening cooperation with the Union offers these countries significant socio-economic benefits which cannot be gained from cooperation with China or Russia.European Union Foreign Policy Human Rights
EU Human Rights Promotion in Central Asia – Between the Dragon and the Bear
06 Apr 2020
On January 15th, Vladimir Putin delivered a landmark address to the Russian Parliament, announcing changes to the Russian Constitution paving the way to shaping the post-2024 system of power, and dismissed Dmitry Medvedev’s cabinet, suggesting the new candidate for the position of Prime Minister for the first time since 2012. What happened and why did it happen now?
Why Putin made such major steps so early?
It is quite unusual for Putin to make such radical election-oriented steps four years before the expiration of his current Presidential term. Normally, his tactics were to keep his plan secret until about 2-3 months before the elections, to be able to catch his opponents off-guard and push his agenda through voters’ approval quickly, before its potential wears out. This happened in 2000, when Boris Yeltsin announced his early resignation to pave way for Putin’s Presidency; then in 2007, when Medvedev was announced Putin’s nominal seat-keeper successor three months before the March 2008 election; and further in 2011, when Putin’s comeback to power was announced two months before the State Duma elections. Why make such major steps now, when Putin still has a lot of time ahead?
One explanation is that Constitutional changes will take time to be adopted – but that still isn’t enough, because the current Constitutional majority of the ruling party and total control over the media allow Putin to adopt whatever changes he wants rather swiftly. The other odd thing is that there are no immediate reasons – neither economic nor political – to sack Dmitry Medvedev’s cabinet right now. Russia’s economy is not doing too well, but there’s nothing catastrophic happening either. The situation is hardly different from where it was months ago and where it is expected to be further into 2020: full-bodied stagnation, as described in economics books.
It may have made sense if only Putin had appointed a decisive reformist Prime Minister to reshuffle things and move the economy forward – but the candidacy suggested to replace Medvedev, the head of the Tax Revenue Service Mikhail Mishustin, is anything but that (a few more words on him below).
Politically, one would also expect that such an advantageous move as the sacking of the quite unpopular Medvedev would be tied to some kind of upcoming elections, but these are not on the immediate horizon (State Duma elections are only scheduled for September 2021, and there are no plans yet to move them earlier). The political effect of Medvedev’s sacking (which would most likely be approved by the majority of Russians) will rather quickly expire. So why throw everything at the table at once – Constitutional changes, sacking the Prime Minister, plus also announcing a major social spending package worth around $6,5-7,5 billion a year – while elections are quite far away?
The obvious answer is that Putin grows extremely worried about his plunging approval ratings and weakening political positions, and his nerve somehow shows up
It should also be noted that Putin’s moves came as a complete surprise to many top Russian officials. Russian media has even cited unnamed federal Ministers who admitted that Medvedev’s resignation came as a complete surprise to them. This corresponds to my own knowledge – I used to work in the Russian government and have a lot of contacts there, who confirmed to me the completely surprising nature of Putin’s decision on the cabinet’s fate.
The obvious answer is that Putin grows extremely worried about his plunging approval ratings and weakening political positions, and his nerve somehow shows up. An eye-opener was his annual December 2019 press conference, which was intended to be the usual show of popular support, but instead demonstrated the severe extent of society’s fatigue with Putin: even most of the questions from loyal media were about the country’s serious troubles instead of praising Putin’s leadership, and the commentary on social media was so overwhelmingly negative that Russian TV channels were forced to turn off comments and hide dislikes on Youtube broadcasts under pressure from Putin (the same thing happened with Youtube videos of his New Year’s address).
Looking at the broader context, another process which is happening in the background are the Kremlin’s preparations for the 2021 Duma elections, which shows a lot of panicking and desperation on the Presidential administration’s part. They seem to be in a desperate search for any fresh ideas and non-political celebrity recruits for the election campaign, ending up with such ridiculous moves as the recent announcement about the creation of a new political party led by the founder of the World of Tanks online game.
A solid, self-assured leader would definitely be rationing all the major steps that Putin made on Wednesday, gradually announcing them piece by piece on the pathway to 2024: Constitutional changes, Government reshuffle, major social aid packages. To throw them out all at once, way ahead of any elections, looks a bit like panic and desperation to me.
Act fast to prevent the disastrous political consequences
There are constant rumours circulating among the Russian power circles that the fresh “classified” opinion polling constantly done by the Kremlin shows that things are much too bad for Putin in terms of public opinion, such that he needs to somehow act fast to prevent the disastrous political consequences. It is also worth saying that the openly published polls also do not paint too bright a picture of him: his popularity is way down, and Russians are clearly unhappy about the situation in the country and disapprove most of the official policies.
Another sign that Putin may be getting nervous is the candidate for the new Prime Minister. Mikhail Mishustin is the anti-hero of the modern-day Russian economy, a true incarnation of The Beatles’ “Taxman” – he was essentially in the tax collection business for most of the past 20 years, and recent months were filled with headlines of him bragging about tax revenue collection growing by 10-12% year on year, despite a lack of economic growth (which essentially meant a dramatic increase of the tax burden on the economy through toughening tax collection administration).
Russians are clearly unhappy about the situation in the country and disapprove most of the official policies
FNS, or Tax Revenue Service headed by Mishustin, is arguably the most hated Government agency by Russian entrepreneurs, and high taxes and burdensome tax collection administration were always occupying the top positions in many recent surveys of business as key factors constraining economic growth. Mishustin was never known for any involvement in the forward-looking and reform-drafting business. He was always fully in the tax collection business. Most definitely, this appointment is not reassuring news for the Russian economy; it rather means further fiscal pressure.
So why appoint such a man? Arguably, the explanation is similar as to why the Government has been raising taxes and thus killing the economic growth, while at the same time the budget runs huge surpluses and has no immediate need for extra money. Putin is uncertain about the economic future and prefers to entrust Government to a man who guarantees him cash at hand – even at the expense of growth.
Essentially, the aura of Putin’s Wednesday speech was all about cash redistribution, not growth. He doesn’t seem to care about growth as such. Putin and the new Prime Minister-designate Mishustin are blood brothers in this regard.
Uncertainty and nervousness behind Putin’s actions
Uncertainty and nervousness. These are probably the keywords describing the whole set of Putin’s initiatives yesterday. The same goes for proposed Constitutional changes: despite many details announced, it is totally uncertain how the new system of power will work.
One thing is clear though: there will be no union with Belarus or any full-powered Putin successor as President, as Putin has deemed these scenarios too risky and challenging for his supremacy. He would prefer to stay in power beyond 2024 in a good old-fashioned Central Asian way, a replica of what his buddy Nursultan Nazarbayev did in 2019 – leaving the Presidential post, but retaining power in many ways. Putin has suggested various options to make that happen: we’ll see increased powers of the State Council (Gossovet, which he probably will chair beyond 2024), and more powers on forming the Government devolved to the State Duma.
Again, it is too early to see how all this will play out – we’re yet to see the draft Constitutional changes – but one thing is clear: Putin has proposed a shift from the current system, which is too centred on the powers of the President, to a more complicated system of checks and balances, which would allow him to retain power beyond 2024 in some new capacity (most likely as the Chair of Gossovet).
Which means he’s not going anywhere – at least by free will. We will have to get rid of him through political means – shifting the public opinion towards the support of the opposition, and participation in the parliamentary and presidential elections. More on that to follow – but Putin has just unveiled a plan to stay in power as lifetime leader.Vladimir Milov Democracy EU-Russia Foreign Policy
Putin and the road to 2024: What happened?
16 Jan 2020
In international affairs, the year 2020 has begun dramatically. On 3 January, the US killed Iran’s most powerful military commander, General Qasem Soleimani, in a targeted airstrike in Iraq. The strike came only days after protesters had assaulted the US embassy in Baghdad in an attack for which the Pentagon blamed Iran and Soleimani in particular.
Iran retaliated on 8 January by hitting American air bases in Iraq with missiles. No American troops were killed and Washington has seemed to accept them as a tit-for-tat response for the earlier strike on Soleimani. Yet, the standoff has also produced casualties: hours after the missile strikes, Iran accidentally shot down Ukrainian International Airlines flight PS752, killing all 176 people on board.
As tensions between the US and Iran have peaked, the EU has found it challenging to play a meaningful diplomatic role in the Middle East, despite the fact the region is located on its own doorstep. The Union’s response has been—as it often is when the EU is confronted with a crisis—haphazard and devoid of strategy.
The EU has made little effort to speak in one voice. Following the American strike on Soleimani, EU leaders issued different and poorly coordinated statements. The first one to do so was European Council President Charles Michel, who emphasised that further escalation needs to be avoided ‘at all cost’. His statement was followed by additional reactions from High Representative Josep Borrell and the President of the new ‘geopolitical’ European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen.
Confusion over who is really speaking for “Europe” was increased further by the separate diplomatic initiatives of France, Germany and the UK—the “E3” European signatories of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA) on Iran’s nuclear programme. At the height of the standoff, France spoke to Iraq, Germany engaged Iran and the UK put the Royal Navy on standby in the Gulf. The E3 also released a separate joint statement to add to the pile of European reactions.
As tensions between the US and Iran have peaked, the EU has found it challenging to play a meaningful diplomatic role in the Middle East, despite the fact the region is located on its own doorstep.
The various European statements have two things in common. First, they emphasise the need to de-escalate tensions in the Middle East in order to avoid a spiral of violence. Second, they emphasise the need to preserve the JCPoA, which has been on life support ever since the US decision to withdraw from it in 2018. Yet, Europe doesn’t seem to be in a strong position to impact the former and the latter seems little more than a dead letter, especially after Iran announced that it would no longer abide by the JCPOA’s uranium enrichment limits.
EU foreign ministers did discuss the situation in the Middle East in an extraordinary Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) meeting on 10 January and they mandated the High Representative to carry out diplomatic efforts with all parties to the standoff to contribute to the de-escalation of tensions. Beyond this, the outcomes of the FAC were meagre (i.e. call for de-escalation and restraint, rhetorical support for Iraq’s stability and the preservation of the JCPoA).
The most significant European move took place on 14 January when the E3 triggered the JCPOA’s dispute resolution mechanism in order to bring Iran back into full compliance with the agreement. High Representative Borrell will oversee the dispute resolution process but the EU doesn’t seem to have an Iran strategy beyond the preservation of the JCPOA, which may well collapse entirely if the process fails and UN sanctions are re-imposed on Tehran.
The causes of Europe’s strategy deficiency are multiple and would take an entire book to address sufficiently. However, it suffices to say here that the EU suffers from multiple problems. These include, inter alia, a leadership vacuum in foreign policy, difficulties in taking decisions that do not create positive win-win outcomes, an unwillingness to make political sacrifices in international affairs, and a lack of appetite for strategic thinking.
None of these problems can be fixed with a single silver bullet such as expanding the use of Qualified Majority Voting (QMV) in EU foreign policy. This is because the Union’s problems are either structural in character or rooted in strategic culture, which means that they cannot be overcome by simply moving away from unanimity decision making in the Council.
Yet, there are things the EU could do. The current practice in which the presidents of different EU institutions issue separate statements on major foreign policy events should stop. This is confusing to audiences both within and outside the EU who seek to understand the Union’s position on a given issue. Ideally, there should be a single joint statement by the President of the European Commission, the President of the European Council and the High Representative if a statement by the latter alone is considered insufficient.
There should also be a permanent operational contact group consisting of the major European powers, which inevitably are expected to take charge in a crisis. It could take the form of a European Security Council, under the umbrella of which major European countries could coordinate their diplomatic activities. Such a structure could be based outside the EU to make it politically feasible to include post-Brexit UK as well.
The current practice in which the presidents of different EU institutions issue separate statements on major foreign policy events should stop.
Finally, there should be a permanent EU level strategy development process, which should lead to the adoption of a new European Security Strategy (ESS) every five years. At the moment, documents such as the 2016 EU Global Strategy (EUGS) are developed on ad hoc basis whenever the member states have an interest in them. This is why there was a 13-year gap between the 2003 ESS and the 2016 EUGS. A more formalised process would push the EU to think about what it wants to achieve on the world stage in regular intervals.
These are small steps, but smalls steps are preferable to doing nothing. The risk is that Europe will continue to sink into further strategic irrelevance and that EU foreign policy will be reduced to empty slogans, hollow statements and photo opportunities.
At a time when tensions in the Middle East remain high, when Russia continues to be assertive, when China’s rise is challenging the established international order, muddling through—Europe’s default foreign policy strategy—should be rejected as an option. Continuing to follow it would be detrimental to Europe’s ability to defend its interests as well as those of its partners.Niklas Nováky Brexit Crisis EU Institutions European Union Foreign Policy Middle East
Iran-US standoff: A missed chance for the EU to speak with one voice
15 Jan 2020
There is a good reason not to reach straight for the panic button as a reaction to increased irregular migration flows from Turkey. Since signing the migration deal with the EU, Turkish President Erdoğan has been trying to rattle the European’s nerves with threats of a new migrant inflow. However, the EU’s position vis-à-vis Turkey is not as weak as it appears.
The Turkish government has, in fact, expressed strong interest in continued European financial support for Syrian refugees residing in Turkey. Also, the EU and Greece are better prepared for a migration crisis, than they were in 2015. The worst-case scenario of hundreds of thousands making it from Turkey to Greece is very unlikely. Even if such a scenario were to happen, the EU could unilaterally abolish its customs union with Turkey, terminate the preferential treatment for Turkish agriculture products and halt arms exports to the country. Given the undesirability of this scenario, diplomacy is a much more preferable option.European Union Foreign Policy Immigration Migration
The EU and the Prospect of a New Migration Wave from Turkey
10 Jan 2020
The leading Twitter hashtags on 3 January – the day Qasem Soleimani was killed by an American drone strike in broad daylight in front of Baghdad Airport – were #WorldWarIII and #FranzFerdinand – the latter not referring to the Scottish indie band, but to the murder of Austria’s heir presumptive that triggered World War I. Alas, 2020 is not 1914, Baghdad isn’t Sarajevo, and the one thing we can safely predict is that World War III is not about to break out. Which doesn’t mean everything is ok and we can safely go back to de-hibernation in rainy Brussels. And the disaster of the downed Ukrainian passenger plane demonstrates that there is no such thing as a conflict without tragic losses. But it means that Europe’s hyperventilation, even if shared by many US liberals in the solidly partisan biotope of Washington, should give way to a healthy dose of sobriety. I propose to take it in five steps.
1. The big Middle Eastern War is not imminent
If the price of crude oil, as a reaction to Soleimani’s killing – jumps up a mere 3 %, as it did last Friday, you know that Armageddon will have to wait, no matter what the Twittersphere says. That doesn’t mean the crisis is over. But the very measured missile strike without casualties against US bases in Iraq on 8 January, the tweets by Iranian leaders that they don’t want further escalation and also Trump’s non-escalatory statement after the missile strikes all speak for lowering tensions for the moment. In fact, while both sides of the conflict have no interest in letting this grow into a full-blown war, it’s the Iranian regime whose very existence is at stake in case the US and/or Israel take out the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ (IRGC) structure – of which they are very well capable. While full-blown war might jeopardise Trump’s re-election, in Iran it would put the whole system into question and likely end mullah rule.
2. Soleimani’s killing has re-established deterrence against Iran
Taking out the mastermind behind Iran’s export of terror in the Middle East and beyond, the engineer of the slaughter in Aleppo and elsewhere who is also responsible for the deaths of hundreds of US soldiers, may well go down in history as a textbook example of escalating to de-escalate. This, nota bene, after a couple of Iranian attacks that remained essentially unanswered by the US. The bombing of tankers in the Strait of Hormuz in spring 2019, the shooting down of a state-of-the-art US drone in June and the missile attacks against Saudi refineries in September come to mind. And remember, it was a good part of the American and European security community that began to worry that Trump is being too soft on Iran, especially after he called back planes and drones already in the air after the drone incident.
Apparently, this week the Iranian military before the strike called up the Iraqi authorities, who then warned the US soldiers so they could get into shelters. Iranian leaders are tweeting very clearly that they want to avoid further escalation. Iraqi Shia leaders have issued calls to their faithful not to attack US troops for the moment. All these are signs that, for the first time in almost a year of direct aggression against the US, Iran is indeed standing down. Soleimani’s killing caused this.
3. The killing has not weakened Iranian moderates
First of all, don’t be deceived by Iranian TV pictures of millions of mourners in the streets of Iranian cities. Soleimani may have been a popular figure with some Iranians; but being the second most powerful leader and his IRGC the decisive pillar of the regime, he was certainly reviled by all dissenters – whose numbers have been growing, if anything, recently. Naturally, the regime spent all the carrots and sticks at the disposal of an authoritarian system to make people attend the rallies. And secondly, Iran’s moderate reaction this Wednesday can very well be read as a sign that the radicals, especially in the IRGC itself, are not calling the shots anymore, contrary to recent years.
4. US forces are not being kicked out of Iraq
That may still happen, and it would be detrimental to Iraqi democracy and especially the fight against ISIS, but Iraq’s non-binding parliamentary resolution of last weekend will not lead to an immediate withdrawal of US troops. Anti-ISIS operations have been halted; some US allies are withdrawing troops from Iraq, but this may very well not be the last word. It’s definitely too early to predict the end of the US presence in Iraq.
5. It is Europe’s sacred mission to bring both sides back to reason – NOT!
Non-European observers may be forgiven for thinking that Europe’s habitual calls on both sides to exercise utmost restraint, and defer from further escalation, have all the quaintness – and the effectiveness – of a Pottawatomi rain dance. Which doesn’t mean that de-escalation doesn’t happen (see above) but it certainly isn’t the result of Europe’s well-meant efforts to ‘bring both sides back to reason’, as German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas put it.
Fortunately, the heads of government of the UK, France and Germany were slightly more sober, putting the blame squarely on the Iranian side and Soleimani personally before repeating the standard memes of EU Iran policy. Europe’s problem with this crisis, as generally with the Middle East, is twofold: First, the EU and its members don’t have the wherewithal to take on any serious diplomatic role because, without the necessary military resources (not only troops but also transport, intelligence and command & control), they cannot alone become a security provider which is essential in the region. And second, some important European actors (Germany, for example) have a huge problem with the very idea of deterrence. Deterrence meaning the ability and the willingness to escalate, in a precise and limited and targeted manner in specific situations, as it happened last Friday. As long as this is so, we can call for utmost restraint or try to save the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) until we’re blue in the face.
Again: All this doesn’t mean that we’re heading for a peaceful future in the Middle East, or that the Soleimani killing was a brilliant, well-planned chess move by a stable genius in the White House. But it means that we Europeans have to rethink some time-honoured principles about security. Remaining pure vegetarians, we won’t survive in a jungle of carnivores.Roland Freudenstein Crisis EU Institutions Foreign Policy Middle East Security
After Soleimani: We Need to Talk About Deterrence in Europe
10 Jan 2020
Since the end of the Second World War, every US administration has promoted European recovery, transatlantic cooperation and joint defence. Common interests, together with common principles and values, constituted the bedrock of the post-war partnership between Europe and the US. NATO became an alliance of both interests and values.
Today, however, the transatlantic partnership is facing a new series of challenges. Of these, two are of particular importance: one external, the other internal. The external challenge concerns the rise of two great revisionist powers, Russia and China, as well as Islamic terrorism. The internal challenge is the declining willingness of the US to defend the international order it created and the fracturing of the core of this system. These global shifts are forcing the Atlantic partnership to re-examine its common interests, its common values, its capabilities and its strategic objectives.
This paper argues that there is a need for a new grand bargain that would lead to a more equal transatlantic partnership. The goals are stronger trade relationships through revitalised negotiations for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and a more even defence relationship that addresses both the question of burden sharing and the disparity in military capability between Europe and the US.EU-US Foreign Policy Trade Transatlantic
The Renewal of Vows: A New Transatlantic Chapter for Europe and America
08 Aug 2019
The EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy was launched in 1998 as a quest for ‘autonomy’. The EU sought the capacity to stabilise its volatile neighbourhood without undue reliance on the US. Almost two decades of efforts have failed to deliver on that objective. But as EU leaders, post-Brexit, re-launch the Common Security and Defence Policy, as the 2016 European Global Strategy rediscovers the virtues of ‘strategic autonomy’, and as the world juggles with a US president who appears to question the very bases of the Atlantic Alliance, it is time to radically re-think the relations between the EU and NATO.
This paper argues that, in the longer term, it is through strengthening the EU–NATO relationship, rather than by focusing on defence initiatives undertaken by the Union alone, that EU strategic autonomy will become possible. This will, at the same time, consolidate rather than weaken the transatlantic bond.Brexit Defence Foreign Policy Security Transatlantic
Strategic Autonomy: Why It’s Not About Europe Going it Alone
08 Aug 2019
Since the time that the popular uprisings in Syria mushroomed into a civil war, prospects for a negotiated political settlement have been thwarted because of the myriad diverging interests of the regime, local opposition groups, and regional and global actors, all of which are vying for power and influence in the country. Europe is deeply troubled by the human rights situation in the country. However, as currently organised, the EU lacks the foreign- and defence-policy mechanisms that would allow it to make a significant impact on the conflict.
Any chance of influencing the situation that the EU may have had in the beginning of the conflict dissipated relatively quickly. This paper recommends that the EU broadens its policy options and engages in ‘linkage politics’ with key powers, particularly Turkey, which has shared interests on certain fronts and direct influence on the ground in Syria. The EU has a long-standing relationship with Turkey, which was developed through the EU accession and customs union processes and more recently in connection with migration management.
Its concerns about Turkey’s descent into authoritarianism notwithstanding, the EU should build on this relationship to promote, as much as possible, a democratic, stable, just and prosperous Syria and greater Middle East region. More specifically, this broader policy framework should emphasise deeper and more sustained coordination of humanitarian responses, border management and de-mining. It should also stress the need for inclusive economic growth as concerns both the displaced Syrian private sector operating in Turkey and its Turkish business counterpart.Democracy Foreign Policy Human Rights Middle East
Thin on the Ground: Recalibrating EU-Turkey Engagement in Syria
08 Jul 2019
The Executive Board of the Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies today approved the nomination of Professor Jamie Shea as its newest Senior Research Associate. Jamie Shea was an international public servant and a member of the International Staff of NATO for 38 years. He is a regular writer, lecturer and conference speaker on NATO and European security affairs and on public diplomacy, political communication and many other areas of contemporary international relations.
“As the president of the Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies, I would like to express how honoured and excited we are to have had three exceptional people with an impressive track record joining our ranks as senior research associates in recent months: Konstantinos Arvanitopoulos, former Minister of Education of the Republic of Greece; Jolyon Howorth, professor at Harvard University and a world-renowned expert on EU defence; and Jamie Shea, for many years NATO’s face and voice as spokesperson. The Martens Centre is a staunch believer in the need to develop an ambitious European Defence Union embedded in a strong transatlantic alliance. Konstantinos, Jolyon and Jamie will help us make a forceful and credible case for it,” said Mikuláš Dzurinda, president of the Martens Centre.
Martens Centre Senior Research Associates are politically like-minded academics who provide quick expert advice on developing stories and current affairs. Through their research and analyses they also contribute to an improved reflection process and the strategic debates of the Centre.
For more information, you can contact Anna van Oeveren, Communications and Marketing Officer: firstname.lastname@example.org or +32 2 300 80 06. Photo source: NATODefence Foreign Policy Security
Martens Centre welcomes Jamie Shea as Senior Research Associate
08 May 2019
With global politics in turmoil, Russia and China have found each other. In 2018, the President of Russia Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping met one another five times. In the same year, Russia and China held their biggest shared military exercises for decades.
Trade between the two nations increased by over 30% in 2018, and is expected to increase even more. They also seem to be finding synergies when it comes to dealing with the situations in Syria and Venezuela.
China and Russia both have features that unite them. Both are blatantly autocratic, show a callous disregard for human rights, and share an openness to using military force in their neighbourhoods. They also share a great interest in pushing back the West’s influence in the world.
Yet, despite these various areas of cooperation, the list of potential conflict points between the two powers is long. Despite the decade-long and successful efforts to ease the potential security conflicts between China and Russia, China’s increasing global ambitions are clashing with Russia’s interests.
To start with, Russia considers the Arctic region its front yard. In 2018, China – self-identifying as a ‘Near-Arctic State’ – announced its official Arctic policy, promoting Beijing’s ambitions for the region, and raising Russian fears of a potential Chinese takeover of the polar zone through the creation of a ‘Polar Silk Road’.
Despite efforts to ease the potential security conflicts between China and Russia, China’s increasing global ambitions are clashing with Russia’s interests.
China’s Belt and Road Initiative also penetrates post-Soviet states in Russia’s backyard. While on the surface level the project underlines economic cooperation, it is clear that China will not make billions worth of investments without making sure that those investments are protected.
As a consequence, China’s influence in Central Asia is increasing rapidly. In the long run, it is clear that the power balance will shift in China’s favour in Central Asia. This represents a major change for Russia.
China has been careful not to encroach upon Russia’s security concerns in Central Asia, but at the same time Beijing is strengthening its role in counterterrorism initiatives with Central Asian states, and beefing up its security presence in countries like Tajikistan.
As China’s Belt and Road Initiative becomes more established, it could easily come into conflict with Russia’s interests in the Russia-managed Eurasian Economic Union. Conflicts of interest may also arise in setting out the future direction of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).
Over the past couple of years, European countries have become very concerned about the consequences of China’s increasing investments. The exact same thing is taking place in Russia’s far east.
For example, Chinese capital now accounts for 45 percent of total foreign investment in the second most important regional city in Russia’s far East, Khabarovsk. Meanwhile Vladivostok, Russia’s far east capital, is also being transformed by Chinese investments.
While this economic boost is being welcomed in this troubled Russian region, the daily deluge of tens of thousands of Chinese holidaymakers and investors has raised concerns among Russian nationalists, who suspect that this could be part of China’s strategic plot to reconquer its lost territories. Indeed, Vladivostok itself was once a part of China known as ‘Haishenwai’ in Chinese.
Why is Russia not reacting to China’s expansion?
Despite these numerous threats, why is Russia still choosing a close alliance with China in various areas? To start with, Russia believes it does not have much of a choice; Russia is a fraction of China’s size economically, and its population is just one tenth of China’s. In military terms, comparing active personnel and military equipment, Russia is not as far behind.
Nevertheless, Russia can ill afford a military confrontation with China along its long land border, given that its military budget is only one third that of China’s. Russia also knows that China could scale up its military rather quickly if needed both in term of men and equipment because of its economic resources.
Additionally, despite Russia’s nuclear advantage, it cannot employ the same scaremongering tactics with China as Putin does with the European population, due to the fact that in China the media is controlled.
But the central reason for Russia’s approach is that while the Putin administration is focused on surviving the next few years, China, by contrast, is playing the long game. Putin’s main goal is to secure his immediate future, and in that regard cooperation with China is beneficial.
While the Putin administration is focused on surviving the next few years, China, by contrast, is playing the long game.
The likelihood that Putin manages to maintain his grip on power in Russia is high. Nevertheless, the economic situation in Russia is worsening, and increasing popular dissatisfaction is being expressed more openly. The result is growing difficulties for the Kremlin in maintaining the status quo, and controlling different regions and their elections has become more difficult as Putin’s hold on the Russian public loosens.
Meanwhile, Putin has declared a de-facto war against the West and its set of values. The colour revolutions in Russia’s neighbourhood were interpreted by Putin as an advance of the West’s values, as well as an immediate personal threat. China might become a threat to Russia at some point, but not immediately, and not to Putin himself.
No doubt Putin understands the long-term risks of China’s growing influence for Russia, but for Putin events in twenty- or thirty-years’ time seem to have less value. China, by contrast knows that Russia is a quickly declining power and it has the patience to wait both for Russia’s power to decay and its own to rise. No doubt Russia will snap out of its sleepwalk with China at some point, but by then it will already be too late.Tomi Huhtanen Defence Economy Foreign Policy Macroeconomics
Is Russia sleepwalking into Chinese dominance?
15 Apr 2019
The Arctic is changing. Facing challenges driven by resource demands, changing power relations and climate change, the top of the world demands the attention of European states and EU officials. This paper examines the main geopolitical issues in the Arctic, such as the development of the region’s energy resources, the underlying potential for conflict and the increasing presence of China in the region. It argues that to unpack the region’s complexities, we need to recognise the diversity within the Arctic across a range of issues and to differentiate different levels of analysis: the international and the regional.
Furthermore, this paper argues that the EU’s approach to the north suffers as a result of a general deficiency in EU external policies, namely incoherence and a multitude of voices and opinions. To have a more effective Arctic policy, the EU needs to distinguish between the different levels outlined here, raise awareness of the issues facing the Arctic among its member states and politicians, and better communicate the relevance of the Union to Arctic states. The EU must view the Arctic primarily as a long-term strategic priority and as an area of growing geopolitical importance.EU-Russia Foreign Policy Security
The New Geopolitics of the Arctic: Russia, China and the EU
08 Apr 2019
In the run up to February’s EU-Arab League summit in Sharm El-Sheikh, the EU was criticised by major media outlets such as the Financial Times for conducting high-level diplomacy with Middle East strongmen. By engaging in summitry with autocrats, it was argued that the EU is legitimising them and undermining its own value-based foreign policy. However, the premise of this argument is wrong.
Over the last number of years, the EU has become more pragmatic in the way it conducts international affairs, most notably by showing a cautious willingness to define and pursue an interest-based foreign policy instead of one based mainly on values. This pragmatic turn was reflected in the 2016 Global Strategy, which called for an EU foreign policy based on ‘principled pragmatism’ and resilience building in the EU’s neighbourhood rather than democracy promotion.
Resilience refers to the ability of a society to withstand both internal and external pressures to its stability. It became a Brussels buzzword following the triple shock of the Arab Spring, the Ukraine conflict and the Mediterranean migration crisis. These events made the EU realise that democracy promotion did not necessarily always translate into stability around its borders, which it needs to guard itself against phenomena such as uncontrolled migration, Islamic terrorism and hybrid warfare.
Some see that this pragmatic turn in EU foreign policy undermines the Union’s ability to promote values and principles such as democracy, the rule of law, and human rights internationally. Furthermore, pragmatism or even realpolitik in EU foreign policy is seen to question the Union’s self-image as a postmodern normative power, a benign actor that uses the attractiveness of its norms and values to induce change in the world instead of hard power.
However, the EU’s willingness to engage in summitry with a group of countries that Freedom House rates predominantly as “not free” is not in itself a negative phenomenon. Instead of undermining EU foreign policy, it suggests that the Union is slowly growing up strategically and distancing itself from a purely idealist way of dealing the world around it. This can be seen a positive development for three reasons.
First, all international actors need to be concerned first and foremost about the security and prosperity of their own citizens, not value promotion beyond their territory. If the EU can accomplish this by engaging in summitry or deal making with unpleasant autocrats, without waiting until they become liberal democrats, then that is the prudent path to take.
A good example of such pragmatism is the EU-Turkey deal in which the Union agreed to provide funds to Ankara in exchange for the latter’s help in stopping irregular migration across the Aegean. This might undermine the EU’s ability to project itself as a normative power, but the deal is in the best interests of its member states.
Second, in its neighbourhood, the EU does not have the luxury of dealing only with “nice” regimes. Geography dictates that instability in countries with which the Union shares a land or maritime border will inevitably have ripple effects for the EU as well. This means that it cannot simply turn a blind eye to countries such as Egypt, Libya or Saudi Arabia, even though they are far from model democracies.
Ignoring nasty regimes is easy when they are far away and strategically insignificant to one’s security, but not when they are on one’s doorstep and one needs them to take care of one’s interests.
Third, value promotion has been a lowest common dominator EU foreign policy, not a strategic one. Given that EU foreign policy is conducted intergovernmentally, it is always a reflection of what the 28 member states can agree with each other. Quite often, they find it excruciatingly difficult to set common strategic objectives at the EU level, as the recent European cacophony over the political crisis in Venezuela again showed. However, it is relatively easy for them to support—at least rhetorically—the international promotion of the EU’s own values and principles.
However, none of this is to say that the promotion of values and principles should not be an important element of EU foreign policy. It will continue to be so, not least because it is codified into the Lisbon Treaty as an objective of EU foreign policy. Furthermore, the Union should continue to promote its values and principles especially now given that great power competition is intensifying and the liberal international order is under unprecedented pressure.
This is also why the EU needs to support the important work done by organisations such as the European Endowment for Democracy.
The point is rather that value promotion should not be treated as the only or even the main goal of EU foreign policy. It is in nobody’s interest if the EU sees itself as a giant NGO that is more concerned about making the world outside its borders a better place than taking care of the security and prosperity of its citizens.
For this reason and regardless of the optics of it, the Union’s willingness to talk to regimes that do not—to put it mildly—fully share its values and principles shows that it is taking modest steps to grow up strategically. This makes it a welcome development.Niklas Nováky European Union Foreign Policy Leadership
The EU is growing up strategically
14 Mar 2019
Superficially, one might frame Venezuela’s current drama as the classical conflict between a regional hegemon (in this case: the US) and a nearby country (Venezuela under Chavez/Maduro) whose government tries to escape the bully, seeking outside help (read: Russia) and promptly being confronted with a hegemon-sponsored insurrection (Guaidó).
In other words, Ukraine in the Americas. That’s the picture that Kremlin media are painting, pointing once more at the alleged ‘hypocrisy’ of the West, unfortunately but predictably seconded by a ragtag coalition of European ‘progressives’, populists and self-appointed geo-strategists.
In their eyes, what we are seeing is just another case of the jungle growing back over the remnants of the Western-dominated world order of the second half of the 20th century. In that vein, it would make sense for Europe to stay out, or limit its actions to the habitual appeal to both sides ‘to refrain from escalation and exercise utmost restraint’.
What Venezuela has in common with Ukraine
But nothing is further from the truth. There is a parallel between both cases, but it works exactly the other way around than self-appointed realpoliticians and progressive Kremlin appeasers would have it. Just like Viktor Yanukovych in Ukraine in 2014, a systemically corrupt, kleptocratic leadership under first Hugo Chavez, then Nicolás Maduro, has ruined the country – albeit in Venezuela’s case even more dramatically than in Ukraine’s.
In both cases, Putin’s Russia has been the protector of the corrupt regime, doing its best to help the local strongman to suppress any democratic opposition and trying to keep out Western support for the democrats who want nothing else than to restore a modicum of stability, regain prosperity and enhance the rule of law – again, this happened even more drastically in Caracas than in Kyiv.
But as much as the Kremlin may be able to destabilise Ukraine through military aggression and try to prevent it from politically becoming part of the West, the question is: why does it cling to an apparently lost cause such as keeping Maduro in power in faraway Venezuela?
There are several factors at play: first of all, Maduro’s reign may not be such a lost cause, at least in the immediate future. Assad’s rule in Syria seemed over by the summer of 2011. Eight years later, he is firmly back in power, thanks to a combined Russian and Iranian intervention.
Although it is unlikely Russia or any other outside player would intervene in Venezuela as massively as that, it is very much in Putin’s interest to demonstrate that authoritarian rulers can be saved if they are friends with him. Allegedly, 400 private security personnel have already been sent by the Kremlin to Venezuela.
Second, as the Kremlin thinks of the world in terms of spheres of influence, and of relations between Russia and the West in zero sum terms, it makes perfect sense for Putin and his entourage to not only defend his own ‘backyard’, but also attack the opponent’s.
Third, every ‘saved’ autocrat across the globe helps the Kremlin to spin its narrative that authoritarianism is the wave of the future, and democracy (i.e. the West) is on the wane.
Putin has this point in common with all other autocrats around the globe, of course, as well as the fourth point: the strict principle of non-intervention other than to save the incumbent government, no matter how illegitimate, and the total rejection of any Responsibility to Protect (R2P).
To defend Russia’s substantial investments into Venezuela may be a fifth point: at a time when real incomes are falling in Russia itself, costly foreign adventures that bring no returns are increasingly hard to justify.
Sixth, in Xi Jinping’s China Putin has a powerful ally – whose financial investments weigh even more heavily than Russia’s. Xi, although less keen than Putin for open confrontation with the West, nevertheless does subscribe to most of Putin’s points regarding a global effort to sustain autocrats.
The delusion of realpolitik and the correct response of the West
The West urgently needs to react to this, and demonstrate that solidarity against dictators can be stronger than the naked violence used by Maduro’s regime against its own people. Prolonging Maduro’s rule would not only be inhumane for the Venezuelans.
It would also prolong a source of instability, mass migration and organized crime that Venezuela has become in recent years and that threatens the entire region.
Support for Venezuela can range from political declarations to aid deliveries, to financial and other support for the opposition, to economic sanctions against the regime and ultimately – as a means of last resort – to military support or intervention. Especially the latter point is hotly debated, after the experience of the past 2 decades in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria, but to take military intervention off the table from the very beginning is nonsense.
The question is not whether ‘war is the solution’. The question is always whether we can come closer to any solution without the use of the military.
Venezuela today, just as Ukraine in 2014, show that saving the incumbent government for the sake of international stability, if it has as consistently failed as here and begins to slaughter its own population, is neither realistic nor humane. It breeds catastrophe.
Venezuela used to be a rich country for Latin American conditions; it has a middle class (in place or in exile) which is capable of returning stability, democracy and prosperity to this country. That is why Europe and the Americas jointly need to act now.Roland Freudenstein Democracy Foreign Policy Human Rights
Venezuela’s Maidan moment – and why Realpolitik is against the interests of the West
25 Feb 2019
One of the main concerns that voters are likely to have in their minds when casting their ballots in next year’s european elections is security. This means that the EU needs an ambitious agenda in the area of security and defence for 2019-2024. More specifically, it needs a set of concrete deliverables, which, if delivered properly and communicated effectively to european citizens, could help boost europeans’ sense of security where they might live in the Union.Defence EU Institutions EU Member States Foreign Policy Security
Security and Defence policy: An Agenda for 2019-2024
29 Nov 2018
European socialists have held a de facto monopoly over the position of the EU’s foreign policy high representative ever since it was created almost two decades ago. When new people will be appointed to the EU’s senior leadership positions in autumn 2019, the centre-right should seek to deny the socialists from having an almost automatic right to determine the person who is appointed as the high representative by carefully vetting all candidates. The minimum goal should be to ensure that the next high representative’s views and believes are more aligned with the centre-right’s vision of europe in the world than they currently are.Centre-Right Foreign Policy Leadership Security
Time for a (more) centre-right EU foreign policy chief
16 Oct 2018
When Donald J. Trump was elected US President in November 2016, some considered it necessary for Europe to start looking for new allies. As a result, some advocated for much stronger cooperation with China, especially in economic terms.
Yet, positive expectations for the future development of Europe-China relations quickly morphed into concerns, mainly due to the massive scale of Chinese investments across Europe in all sectors. China has bought or invested in assets amounting to at least 318 billion dollars (272 billion euros) over the past 10 years.
China has also expanded its cultural influence via the Confucius Institutes—a growing network of government affiliated educational organisations promoting Chinese language and culture—and by financing China studies and academic chairs in different European universities.
Until now, Chinese influence has been seen by the public as less problematic than for example the influence of Russia. However, according to Thorsten Benner and Kristin Shi-Kupfter, China seeks to weaken western unity with Europe and across the Atlantic and pushes to create a positive global perception of China’s political and economic system as viable alternative to liberal democracies.
The pressing question is, how will China use its influence in Europe while its economic power continues to grow? Is it a possibility that China will resort to more aggressive tactics?
For us, the case of China’s relations with Australia and New Zealand, and the concerns those two countries have vis-à-vis Beijing, can give an indication of what might come. Compared to Europe, Australia’s and New Zealand’s relations with China are much deeper, richer in events and history. Unfortunately, however, their relations with China have recently become characterised by ever deepening suspicion and concern.
The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), the country’s domestic intelligence agency, wrote in its annual report to the Australian parliament that foreign governments are trying to extend their influence in Australian society, posing “a threat to our sovereignty, the integrity of our national institutions, and the exercise of our citizens rights.” In Australia and New Zealand, the Chinese government has gained influence in political systems, universities and media.
A particular concern are businesspeople with links to Beijing who promote pro-China views and donate millions to labour and the liberals—the country’s two major political parties. An analysis by Melbourne Law School’s Dollars and Democracy database states that between 2000 and 2016, about 80% of foreign political donations to Australia’s parties came from China.
ASIO identified at least AUS$ 6.7 million in donations to the two main political parties from two Chinese billionaires close to Beijing. Also, ASIO has identified 10 political candidates at various levels of government with strong ties to Beijing and the United Front.The United Front is part of China’s ‘soft power’ operation which President Xi Jinping has made one of the paramount objectives of his administration and is estimated to cost China between $10 and $12 billion annually.
Chinese influence is also perceptible in universities and think-tanks. Mr. Huang Xiangmo, one of the billionaires who allegedly donated money to Australian politicians, helped fund a think-tank focused on China at University of Technology Sydney and he was chairman of the Australian Council for the Peaceful Reunification of China, an organisation backed by China’s United Front. He was also chairman of the Australian-China Relations Institute advisory board. He resigned when it was questioned by academics as to whether it was becoming a mouthpiece for the United Front, for Beijing’s propaganda.
In addition, China’s state and security forces have reportedly engaged in a campaign to monitor Chinese nationals, including many students. Thus, ASIO is concerned about foreign interference in Australian Universities.
As a result, new laws have been drafted in Australia, designed to restrict the potential influence of foreign governments and to enforce greater transparency, namely aimed at the Chinese government i.e. Chinese Communist party.
New Zealand’s experience
In New Zealand the developments have been very similar. Anne-Marie Brady from University of Canterbury, released a report which received a lot of publicity, describing with many examples how China has gained influence in the New Zealand’s society, such as political donations.
Maybe the most media attention was given to a case in New Zealand in 2017, when a successful politician in foreign affairs, Mr. Jian Yang, was investigated for his background in Chinese military intelligence, which involved 15 years of training and work which he managed to conceal.
For the US, China’s influence in New Zealand is a concern, especially with regards to Wellington’s reactions to China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea. On 7 May this year, former US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton spoke in Auckland, warning of increasing Chinese influence.
China’s future influence in Europe
The level of concern in both Australia and New Zealand’s state institutions resembles the concern most Europeans have today for Russia. Also, despite the wide public debate in Australia and New Zealand about Chinese influence, China continues to use its tactics.
Australia’s and New Zealand’s experience shows that better transparency is needed as it comes to foreign influence especially related to the core processes of European societies; elections and voting periods.
China is growing its economic influence in Europe. Its economic power is not yet massive, but it is increasing rapidly. Europe consists of open societies like Australia which makes them easy to target, easy to penetrate.
Which forms will China’s influence take when it really starts to gain economic power and leverage in Europe? China’s advancement of its interest and successful penetration of Australian and New Zealand societies might give us an answer. Chinese tactics in Europe may become more assertive, aiming for greater impact and so become cause for greater concern.Tomi Huhtanen EU Member States Foreign Policy Globalisation
China’s rise in Europe: lessons learned from Australia and New Zealand
01 Jun 2018
The 14 April US-led missile strikes against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria in response to a suspected chemical weapons attack were necessary to reestablish deterrence against any future use of such weapons in the country. Yet, the strikes were reactive rather than strategic in nature, and will not change the course of syria’s civil war. This would require the West to outline a clear vision for the country’s future, and a strategy to achieve it.Defence EU-US Foreign Policy Security
The US-led missile strikes in Syria
23 Apr 2018
What a difference a year makes! Early in 2017, President Xi Jin Ping’s Davos speech about openness and sustainability seemed to herald a new China, globally responsible and therefore in many ways a potential strategic partner for Europe – especially when compared to Trump’s America which just seemed to have said goodbye to the West.
But come 2018, global media’s biggest China stories are about Australian universities being bullied into firing staff for ‘insulting the feelings of Chinese students’, European investors complaining about intrusive Communist Party cells in their Chinese factories, EU direct investment in China actually decreasing recently, German counterintelligence warning about a broad offensive of Chinese spy agencies and, most ominously, the impending nationwide introduction in China of a Social Credit System which would make Big Brother green with envy.
And this is not to mention the familiar stories about tightening controls of social media, crackdowns on Civil Society and foreign NGOs (aka ‘closing space’), and now perpetuating the authoritarian rule of one person (Xi) within the authoritarian rule of the Chinese Communist Party (CPC).
The Economist had three China cover stories in four months – all with a critical spin: One about China’s questionable trade practices, one about the dangers of Xi Jin Ping’s new authoritarianism, and the last one about how China is spreading its ‘sharp power’ across the globe.
There is no doubt that the rise (or re-emergence) of China is one of the great events of our time that will ‘echo down the ages’ as Mark Leonard said in his seminal ‘What Does China Think?’. But in the past year, the European debate about how advantageous the rapid power shift to Xi Jin Ping’s China is for us, has taken a healthy turn towards realism.
Above everything else, Europeans, and indeed Westerners in general, will have to perceive this as an ideological challenge. Xi’s ‘Chinese model’ (brutally simplified: market economy minus democracy) is not only in direct competition to the Western model of combining economic and political freedom (the takeaway from 1989 to the 21st century, if you will).
But 2017 was the year when it became abundantly clear that the Chinese model has mutated from a competing design to a threat in many ways, through a combination of military expansion, bullying neighbours, strategic investments (including ‘buying’ institutions and people) and political arm-twisting. Of course, such pearls of Western democracy as Trump or Brexit, or electoral successes of national populists across continental Europe are grist on the mills of the proponents of the one party state.
But then again, as long as the one party state produces psychopathic mass murderers such as Kim Jong Un, there is no reason for an overdose of Western contrition. Neither are we powerless, nor is head-on confrontation the only alternative to total acquiescence. Instead, here are eight steps to a more solid response by the EU:
- Putting things in perspective:
Of course, China is not – and will not be – the only show in town. Take a look at the much-hyped relevance of China to the EU’s foreign trade: In 2016, Germany, the EU’s no. 1 economy, traded with China goods worth 170 billion Euros. But Germany’s combined trade volume with the V-4 countries (together about 65 million inhabitants) was 255 Billion Euros. China’s phenomenal economic growth notwithstanding, it still faces enormous challenges in social stability, corruption, the environment and private debt.
- Maintaining unity in the EU:
Even if it’s hard, we should strive for a more coherent answer to China’s ‘Belt and Road Initiative’, coordinating among member states. A joint strategy, or at least, best practice, vis-à-vis Chinese direct investment, would be a good idea. And the governments inside as well as outside the EU participating in China’s 16+1 initiative addressing cash-strapped former communist countries should at least be offered some analysis and intelligence about Chinese investment strategies in connectivity, especially in the digital field.
- Working with our allies:
Even Trump and Brexit have not changed the laws of gravity, nor the relative community of values and interest between Europe and North America. Confronting China on its authoritarian trade model (forced technology transfers, large state-owned enterprises, WTO rules manipulation) will be an excellent field of strategic coordination with a post-Brexit Britain and a US with checks and balances still intact. NATO is also a good framework to do so.
- Compartmentalising relations:
Cooperating with China where useful and possible, but by all means pushing back where necessary. While trade, fighting climate change and, in future, even defending parts of the global liberal order such as copyright law (as Chinese inventors become more defensive) may be good areas of strategic cooperation, China’s sharp power needs to be resisted, by means of our open societies as well as the rule of law and counter-intelligence.
- Learning Mandarin (or Cantonese, for that matter):
The EU and its member states need to quickly and sustainably improve their expertise on China. That ranges from linguistic abilities to analytical capacities. It will be crucial that these efforts are financed from within Europe, and not by the Chinese government, universities or private investors.
- Institutional networking:
Think tanks and experts analysing China (and not on a Chinese payroll) must cooperate more closely, and build sustainable networks to exchange information and analysis. The EU, as well as national governments and civil society, all have crucial roles to play here.
- China mainstreaming:
China should be factored into all strategic policy areas in Europe. Our pushback against Putin is an excellent example: The Chinese leadership is watching very closely how Russia fares with its territorial annexation and military aggression. There is a Chinese factor even in our sanctions policy towards the Kremlin. Whether energy, foreign investments, technology cooperation, relations with Africa (not only in the migration context), even defence policy: there is a Chinese angle to many EU policy fields, hence China must become part of our strategy in all of them.
- Reaching out:
To Taiwan, which is the living proof that democracy and the rule of law are very much compatible with Chinese culture, contrary to what the CPC would make us believe; to Hong Kong and its courageous democracy activists; to the growing Chinese expat community, and within China to regional and local partners who often genuinely desire more independent relations to Europe. As to China’s neighbours: Countries such as Japan, South Korea and Vietnam should become part of an informal network of intelligence exchange and strategic coordination.
The West has seemed to be losing out already a couple of times in history. In the 1930s, communism and fascism looked like the wave of the future. In the late 1950s, with the Sputnik shock, the victory of the West in the Cold War looked less than sure, to put it mildly. The West has the ability – amazing to many and annoying to its detractors – of bouncing back when it’s least expected to. If 2017 was the year the Chinese dragon began to audibly growl, let 2018 become the year we developed a valid response!Roland Freudenstein Democracy Economy Foreign Policy Globalisation
Dancing with the Dragon: how the EU should respond to the Chinese challenge
10 Jan 2018
European Allies are increasingly well positioned, in economic and fiscal terms, to opt to play a full role as NATO members in developing stronger defence capabilities. This is timely, given Russia’s resurgence and ongoing security challenges to Europe’s South.
Europe is gradually adapting to a new normal, consisting of an assertive Russia, which challenges Western interests and values in both the East and the South, and ongoing threats from Islamist non-state actors across Northern Africa and the wider Middle East.
Prior to 2014, in the aftermath of the Great Recession of 2009, NATO Allies had engaged in widespread cuts to defence spending. This was largely driven by fiscal policy pressures, as public debt and deficit levels rose strongly as a result of the 2008 financial crisis and of the subsequent Great Recession.
The vast majority of European Allies are also EU Member States, and thus subject to obligations under EU law to maintain their public debt-to-GDP levels below 60% of GDP, and their annual fiscal balances, if in deficit, to no worse than 3% of GDP.
In recent academic research, I defined an EU Member State’s fiscal capacity as the ability to increase total public spending while complying with the EU’s 60% rule for the public debt-to-GDP ratio.
I then demonstrated that, over the 2008-2016 period, Allies had tended to increase defence spending more than others (or to at least decrease it less than others) if they had greater fiscal capacity.
I also showed that Allies had tended to increase defence spending more than others if they were located closer to stationed or deployed military forces of the Russian Federation, and if they had a land border with the Russian Federation. Recent data illustrates the impact of these two factors on the extent to which Allies have increased their defence spending, in real terms, between 2014 and 2017, see Chart 1.
Chart 1: Increases in defence spending (2014-2017) versus public debt ratios in 2014
The largest increases have occurred in nations that both are closer to Russian forces and benefit from lower public debt-to-GDP ratios. Conversely, increases have been much more subdued – and in the cases of Belgium and Croatia even negative – among Allies who suffered from high public debt levels in 2014 and are geographically further removed from Russian military forces.
A third effect is at play, namely how close individual Allies were to NATO’s 2% guideline in 2014. The UK, France, Greece, Estonia and Poland were either above or quite close to 2% in 2014, thus explaining their comparatively lower real increases in defence spending since that time. Increases are particularly large in Lithuania and Latvia, which had low levels of defence spending as a percentage of GDP in 2014.
Prospects for a fulfilment of NATO’s Defence Investment Pledge?
At NATO’s 2014 Summit in Wales, Allies had committed to either remain above 2% if already at that level or, for those that were not, to “aim to move towards the 2% guideline within a decade”. In light of the relationships that were documented above, what prospects do Allies have to respect their commitment, given likely economic and fiscal prospects?
Focusing on the 17 NATO Allies that are also EU Member States and which, according to the latest estimates published by NATO, are expected to still be below the 2% guideline in 2017, one finds that there is good news overall. Based on the projections from the IMF’s World Economic Outlook, October 2017 edition, the public debt-to-GDP ratios of all 17 nations are projected to fall, as compared to their 2016 ratios, by 2022.
By that year, 9 out of the 17 nations should be below 60%, as opposed to 7 today. The two nations that are expected to successfully cross below the 60% threshold are Germany and the Netherlands.
Chart 2: Public debt-to-GDP ratios: 2016 (actual) and 2022 (projected)
For the 9 nations that are projected to reach a public debt-to-GDP ratio of less than 60% by 2022, it should be particularly easy to raise defence spending up to 2% of GDP, as this could be achieved purely through higher deficit and debt levels, for which there is leeway. Such an approach would require no other sacrifices in fiscal and budgetary terms – neither any increases of the tax burden as a share of GDP, nor any compression of non-defence spending as a share of GDP.
For those nations that are projected to still be above 60% of GDP by 2022, raising defence spending to 2% of GDP would still be possible, but this would require greater sacrifices, e.g. tax burden increases and/or compression of other public spending, if one assumes that these nations would simultaneously be seeking to reduce their public debt-to-GDP ratios by at least as much as the IMF projects.
This is especially true for those Allies which have particularly high debt ratios and which are still far below the 2% guideline – namely Italy, Portugal, Belgium, and Spain.
For these four nations, one could argue that both greater debt reduction efforts and greater defence spending efforts would be conducive to national security, and ultimately to Europe’s collective security. Overall, however, most European Allies face improving fiscal prospects and a greater margin of manoeuvre to reach the goals they committed to at the Wales Summit.
Edward Hunter CHRISTIE is a Defence Economist at NATO. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of NATO or of Allied governments.
 Edward Hunter Christie (2017): The Demand for Military Expenditure in Europe: The Role of Fiscal Space in the Context of a Resurgent Russia, Defence and Peace Economics, DOI: 10.1080/10242694.2017.1373542Edward Hunter Christie Defence European Union Foreign Policy
Edward Hunter Christie
Do European Allies have the economic and fiscal capacity to fulfill their NATO commitments?
14 Nov 2017
Since 2015, the European Union (EU) has been discussing the idea of creating a European Security and Defence Union (ESDU). Although details are scarce, this means deepening cooperation between EU member states in the area of security and defence beyond what is currently done within the framework of the Union’s Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP).
ESDU: where we are so far
The current discussion is driven by a recognition that the EU needs to do more in the area of security and defence. Three developments in particular have pushed ESDU to the top of the Union’s agenda. Firstly, its failure to deal with the 2011 Libya crisis and the 2014 Ukraine crisis without the United States (US).
Secondly, the United Kingdom’s (UK’s) decision to leave the EU, or ‘Brexit’, which means that the Union will lose its strongest military power and the main obstacle for deeper defence cooperation.
Thirdly, concerns about America’s willingness to defend its European allies under President Donald Trump in all circumstances.
ESDU is not a new idea. It was first discussed during the Convention on the Future of Europe (CFE), which drafted the EU’s failed constitution in 2001-2003. During the CFE, France and Germany called for developing an ESDU on the grounds that ‘a Europe fully capable of taking action’ was not feasible without ‘enhancing its military capabilities’.
The idea was also raised in April 2003 by France, Germany, Belgium, and Luxembourg. At the time, however, ESDU did not gain steam because Atlanticist EU member states—notably the UK—saw it as an attempt to undermine the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Although the European Parliament (EP) brought up ESDU again in 2006, the idea remained more or less buried until 2015-2016.
The current ESDU discussion differs from the 2002-2006 one because there is now much broader support for it. Since 2016, the European Commission, the European External Action Service (EEAS), the EP, the Council of the EU, and various EU member states have expressed support for the ESDU.
The European People’s Party (EPP), which has been leading the debate on EU defence since 1992, called for an ESDU ‘worthy of that name’ in June 2015. Germany’s 2016 security policy white paper also mentioned that achieving ESDU is Berlin’s ‘long-term goal’. Furthermore, Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker’s 2017 State of the Union address stated that the EU needs ‘a fully-fledged European Defence Union’ by 2025.
Although the idea of ESDU is gaining momentum, the current discussion has included surprisingly few details on what it would mean in practice as most of what has been said in public is vague. The Commission’s June 2017 Reflection Paper on the Future of European Defence, for example, notes that an ESDU ‘will require joint decision-making and action, as well as greater financial solidarity at European level’; and that an ESDU ‘would be premised on the global strategic, economic and technological drivers, as well as a political push from European citizens for common European security and defence’. This is hardly a blueprint.
In all likelihood, ESDU will be a form of Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) under articles 42(6) and 46 of the Treaty on EU (TEU). PESCO enables those member states ‘whose military capabilities fulfil higher criteria and which have made more binding commitments to one another in this area with a view to the most demanding missions’ to deepen their cooperation in the area security and defence beyond what some of their partners might be comfortable with.
Essentially, it would mean the creation of a defence ‘avant-garde’, ‘core group’, ‘pioneer group’ or ‘Eurozone’.
If ESDU will be a “defence Eurozone”, what would be its “euro”? In other words, what would be the qualities that would distinguish ESDU members from non-members? The most detailed ESDU blueprint that the EU has so far produced has come from the EP.
In a 2016 resolution, the Parliament expressed that an ESDU should, inter alia, offer guarantees and capabilities to EU member states beyond their individual ones, create a Council format for defence ministers, and turn the Subcommittee on Security and Defence (SEDE) into a full committee. These are all good ideas, which should be implemented in their own right.
A new blueprint
However, such reforms are mainly about fine tuning the EU’s existing institutional structure. While this might improve the EU’s ability to respond to threats, they would not generate the types of capabilities that would be needed to protect European citizens and their territory.
As the 2016 EPP Paper on Security and Defence states, this is the purpose of the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP). Given that it should also be the main purpose of ESDU, it should be created around two main deliverables that would boost the EU’s ‘defence’ dimension: (1) an unqualified mutual defence commitment, and (2) a military Schengen area.
First, given that not all EU members are NATO members and therefore not under the protection of Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, ESDU participants should commit to defend each other in the event that one of them becomes subject to armed aggression through all means in their power, including military force.
Although this sounds similar in tone to Article 42(7) of the Treaty on EU (TEU), the so-called mutual assistance clause, it is not. Article 42(7)’s mutual assistance commitment is rendered hollow by its second paragraph, which states that it ‘shall not prejudice the specific character of the security and defence policy of certain Member States’. This means that the Article 42(2) can be interpreted in a highly subjective way. Thus, a genuine ESDU should include an unqualified mutual defence commitment.
Second, in ESDU, there should be minimal to no obstacles to moving military forces and equipment from one state to another. At the moment, such movement is hindered by various bureaucratic requirements, such as passport checks at some border crossings.
Furthermore, infrastructure problems, such as roads and bridges that cannot accommodate large military vehicles, create additional obstacles to the movement of military personnel and equipment in Europe. This is something that has also been called for by NATO, which means that it would also further boost EU-NATO cooperation.
Where do we go from here?
ESDU should be created around an unqualified mutual defence commitment and a military Schengen area. These would form the core of the new defence core group, or the “euro” of a “defence Eurozone”.
In addition, ESDU could include looser commitments, such as a commitment by the participating EU member states to invest a certain percentage of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in defence; and a commitment to improve the EU’s existing rapid response capabilities, particularly the battlegroups. However, given that such commitments could eventually be ignored, they should not form the backbone of an ESDU.
 Germany, Federal Government, White Paper 2016 on German Security Policy and the Future of the Bundeswehr (19 September 2016), 73.
 European Commission, Reflection Paper on the Future of European Defence, COM(2017) 315 (7 June 2017), 11, 14.
 Art. 42(6), Treaty on European Union (TEU).
 European Parliament, ‘European Parliament resolution of 22 November 2016 on the European Defence Union (2016/2052(INI))’.
 Art. 42(7), TEU.Niklas Nováky Defence EU Institutions European Union Foreign Policy Security
The European Security and Defence Union: how should it look like?
30 Oct 2017
In the years to come, Europe will face many difficult challenges related to migration. To cope with the increased flows emanating from the African continent, present policies will have to be adapted and new ones created. The EU must pursue a course that protects the integrity of free movement, secures the external borders and enables it to work with stakeholders, both in Africa and elsewhere, to avoid an unchecked influx of migrants.
The article reviews important elements of the debate that has been taking place in the EU in recent years and shows that a new basis for the European Migration and Asylum Policy is needed to ensure that it has a more realistic chance of success. It argues that there is a need for a review of EU policies on migration and asylum, and for the development of more useful tools to disentangle the complex web of interests which today is ever present in the debate on the European Migration and Asylum Policy.
Read the full article in the December 2017 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.Tobias Billström Foreign Policy Migration North Africa
The end and the beginning: the EU, Africa and the need for a new migration regime
30 Oct 2017
In mid-September, together with former NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, chairperson of the Committee on Foreign Affairs at the German Bundestag Marieluis Beck, and former US Ambassador to NATO Alexander Versbow, I visited Toretsk, the so-called contact line in South-Eastern Ukraine. It is a line separating Ukrainian territory controlled by Ukraine from Ukrainian territory that Ukraine does not control.
We were brought to the Dnepropetrovsk airport from Toretsk by a Ukrainian military helicopter. When we descended from the helicopter, its captain asked Rasmussen to patiently listen to him for two minutes. The captain said to the former General Secretary of NATO and current advisor to President Poroshenko something along these lines: “Mr Rasmussen, I fulfilled the duty assigned to me. I safely transported you and your friends from point A to point B. But you arrived in point A 15 minutes late. This was very bad, because it made our big helicopter exposed to the attention of the enemy for 15 minutes. In a similar situation, I recently lost a group of soldiers who were shot down by the enemy because of the delayed take-off.”
It was only then that I understood why, after the helicopter got off the ground, its captain made several manoeuvres to change the flight direction and why for about 10 minutes we flew so close to the ground that we almost touched it. “But now comes the most important part,” continued the captain, “I know you are advisor to President Poroshenko. Show him this photo – the picture showed the captain with President Poroshenko during one of the President’s visits to Eastern Ukraine – and tell him that I am the soldier who was the first and the only one to speak up during critical moments on Maidan square, wearing the uniform of a member of Ukrainian Armed Forces, and I publicly urged the Ukrainian military not to intervene against the demonstrators. I am 53 now. I risked everything, my family, my work. I believed then and I still believe in democratic changes in our country. But please tell the President, because I cannot get near him, that if he does not do away with corruption, we will lose the war with Russia and we will lose our country. I earned 5 euros today for my service to you. But I’m not complaining. I did not do it for money. I did it because Ukraine needs your help, it needs the solidarity of the entire democratic world. I still believe that Maidan had and continues to have a meaning. But our President must take a strong stance on corruption.”
I decided to share this experience with the public. At home in Slovakia, in Ukraine and in Brussels. Because the future, and not only that of Ukraine, lies with people like the captain of our helicopter.Mikuláš Dzurinda Democracy Foreign Policy Values
Why Poroshenko must take a strong stance on corruption
19 Sep 2017
I guess it’s clear now that Trump and Putin will indeed get along, much as I had predicted immediately after the U.S. Presidential election last November. The personal meeting between the two strongmen had played a groundbreaking role here, as was discussed at the Martens Centre panel on transatlantic relations at the EPP Congress in Malta in March.
Beyond any doubt, Vladimir Putin is the net winner so far, because he hasn’t had to make any concessions during the meeting. However, Donald Trump indeed made some. First, he kept key realist professionals out of the room (H.R. McMaster, Fiona Hill), and he was joined only by Rex Tillerson, perhaps the most comfortable figure for Putin out of all current U.S. foreign policy decision-makers.
Second, whatever the talk was about Putin’s cyber-intrusion into U.S. affairs (parties issue contradictory statements), one thing is clear: the issue hasn’t really gone anywhere and parties quickly moved on to other issues of the day.
Third, Trump didn’t want to hold Putin accountable on his past behaviour – aggression against neighbours, interference in affairs of Western democracies, attacks on the liberal world order, crackdowns on human rights in Russia. Instead, “there was not a lot of litigating the past”, as Rex Tillerson told the media.
Let’s be clear: there’s only one beneficiary of this sort of “move on” attitude – Putin. He wants to default on his past sins and be accepted as a normal guy by Western leaders again. Trump made a huge step in that direction in Hamburg.
But more importantly is the question – what comes next? Technically, I’m convinced that they agreed to hold a fully-fledged bilateral summit at some time soon, but just don’t want to announce it now, to allow flexibility. On the substantial part – few things.
First: much will depend on whether the professionals (H.R. McMaster, Fiona Hill, Kurt Volker) will return to have a say in crafting out future U.S. policy on Russia, or whether everything will continue in a napkin-drawn impromptu mode. The latter is a dangerous option: Putin is tricky and has great skill in selling his side of the story to unprepared and inexperienced people. Many reasonable people whom I know often left Putin’s office with his worldview.
Second: without doubt, Putin now sees Trump not as much as a tool for lifting sanctions against Russia (he sees the difficulties with that, bearing in mind what happens now on the Hill), but rather as a tool to sow further confusion and distrust in Transatlantic relations.
Putin is happy to hear Trump’s bashing of U.S. NATO allies for not spending enough on defence, as well as his other public attacks on the leaders of major Western democracies. It’s obvious that both leaders don’t like Angela Merkel very much, I’m sure part of their dialogue either was, or will be, focused on how to bypass her in important decision-making on major global affairs.
This leads us to the major third point. In the grave current geopolitical crises – Syria, the Korean Peninsula, and the Saudi-Iranian standoff – a United Europe, the key remaining pillar of Western democracy, is often dangerously absent. Trump is working to solve most of these crises together with a bunch of autocratic leaders – and Putin perfectly fits into that profile.
Why treat him so much differently? Technically, there’s still a lot more freedom in Russia than in China or Saudi Arabia (and Turkey is rapidly moving towards the same direction). So, we’re back into some sort of replica of the XIX century reality now – it looks like major international issues are set to be resolved through a number of “deals” between Trump and some autocrats.
Europe, as the major hope and leading force of the free democratic world at a time when the United States has taken (temporary?) leave from that role, should step up and increase its role in important affairs of the world, if we do not want to rely on the unpredictability of Trump. For President Trump, shaping the new world order through a series of deals with autocratic strongmen seems to be a temptation that’s too hard to resist.
He likes doing deals that way – we saw that in Riyadh, and now in Hamburg. But that’s a dangerous road for the future of the democratic world order, and the only way to defend it right now is if Europe amplifies its voice in global affairs. If not, we’ll be rapidly sliding into the XIX century politics, a glimpse of which we saw in Hamburg during the meeting between Putin and Trump.Vladimir Milov EU-Russia Foreign Policy Transatlantic
The Trump-Putin deal gets real
13 Jul 2017
The EU is facing an unprecedented challenge on its southern borders in terms of instability in the region and increased migration flows. In its search for a solution that will meet with the approval of all member states, there is a new momentum for strengthening cooperation with neighbouring countries.
The EU is increasingly turning to third countries to manage migration flows and reduce the number of irregular migrants arriving in Europe. Nevertheless, there are serious constraints on its ambition. The EU has failed to offer its cooperation partners real incentives, while member states have been reluctant to coordinate their initiatives and become involved, thus undermining EU action beyond its borders.
The result is slow progress and uncertain partnerships. It is time to address these limitations and make the EU a reliable and coherent regional actor, able to speak with one voice when addressing third countries on migration. This calls for stronger foreign policy on migration at the EU level, the deployment of a wide range of tools and incentives, and more committed member-state support for EU action.
Read the full article in the June 2017 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.Loredana Teodorescu Foreign Policy Immigration Migration Neighbourhood Policy Security
Ambition versus reality: partnering with our neighbours on migration
04 Jul 2017
With the global governance system becoming increasingly unrepresentative of the changed realities of the twenty-first century, the emerging powers have been all the more proactive in seeking to reshape it. This paper focuses on three multilateral structures recently created by the emerging powers and asks whether they represent an emerging alternative international order or rather the (re)ascendance of international liberalism. More specifically, the paper assesses the development of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the New Development Bank and the Contingent Reserve Arrangement. I argue that these bodies aspire, not to eclipse their established counterparts, but to complement them, by building on their best practices and omitting their shortcomings.Foreign Policy Globalisation
New Multilateral Structures: the Rise of an Alternative Order or More of the Same?
27 Jun 2017
President Trump’s foreign policy remains paradoxical and as yet highly uncertain. European leaders face the challenge of communicating both their interests and values in ways that the new president will welcome. Thus far, practical discussion combined with a personal connection seems the likeliest path to success. Ultimately, the EU has the opportunity not only to partner with the US but to lead the way forward based on the EU’s own fundamental commitments and values. Three important areas this could affect are security and defence, climate change policy and global trade.
Read the full article in the June 2017 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.Nathan Shepura Environment EU-US Foreign Policy Leadership Transatlantic
Ledgers, anecdotes and leadership: guidelines for partnering with the new US president
22 Jun 2017
China first became an active and visible player in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) in the 1950s, when it worked together with the region to stop a possible Soviet invasion of Poland in October 1956. This strong relationship was later dismantled due to the Sino-Soviet split and the volatile domestic situation in China (the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution).
It is only since 2012 that China has become active in the region again, now as an emerging global power with a strategy and new investment initiatives in play: first the 16 + 1 framework and now the Belt and Road Initiative as well. Does China consider the CEE countries to be its new playground, or test area, within the EU? Or does it instead see the region as a gatekeeper that can help it get a foot in the door to the West?
China has a vision, a pragmatic approach and political will, but the implementation of this vision has been weak. While several existing mechanisms offer new potential, they have so far only been partially exploited, due to the different business mentalities of both sides, as well as many other obstacles. China is opening up opportunities for CEE, but the latter must be better prepared for China’s new activities.
Read the full article in the June 2017 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.Bogdan Góralczyk EU Member States European Union Foreign Policy Globalisation
China’s interests in Central and Eastern Europe: enter the dragon
27 May 2017
On 25 May, President Trump will come to Brussels, on the last leg of his first trip abroad.
If anyone takes offense at Europe coming in line after Saudi Arabia and Israel on this trip, then talking to Trump might be a waste of time. You will be better off among the demonstrators with their whistles, #resist hashtags and “Impeachment!” placards. But if the heads of government of EU and European NATO members want to get anything positive out of the meeting this week, they might want to keep in mind a few do’s and don’ts:
- Trump is here to stay. Don’t get sidetracked by the Washington sitcom around the Kremlin connection and its diverse spinoffs. First of all, impeachment is not around the corner. And second, even if it were, this administration will remain with us for a whole four years: snap elections are not part of America’s political system.
- Focus on the concrete. Don’t lecture the President on the history, principles or values of European integration. That doesn’t mean Europe’s leaders should forget about their identity or hide what they stand for. But that they should count on a President and administration interested in pragmatic progress and with little interest in theory.
- Europhobia is an exception. Don’t take some US conservatives’ criticism of European integration as the new normal. Frustration over a perceived lack of European burden sharing on defence and security is as old as the alliance. Similarly, the exasperation over the ping pong game between Brussels and the national capitals – as encapsulated in Kissinger’s question about which phone number to call for Europe’s position. Keep in mind that while Trump has some advisors openly opposed to the EU, the vast majority of his key people in the White House and elsewhere recognise the value of the EU even if they find dealing with it to be overly complicated and annoying.
- Work on united EU positions. But keep in mind that Americans note how European leaders don’t always convey a common message when they communicate through their Embassies in Washington. When Trump or his advisors try to discuss EU policies with individual European counterparts, they aren’t necessarily trying to weaken the EU; they want to achieve fast results by working with the countries they deem more influential than others in Europe. Hence, as long as EU member states don’t devolve all their powers to Brussels, some of them will have to speak for the whole Union sometimes. Such is life.
- Find the common interests. The last, but most important point: do make constructive proposals that are in the interest of both Europe and the US. Besides serious commitments to improved defence efforts which have already been widely discussed, here are a few ideas:
- NATO: Visibly increase military spending, but even more importantly, improve pooling and sharing among European forces within NATO. Accelerate NATO reform, with more concrete commitments to the South. However, one should keep in mind Turkey’s nuisance value in blocking NATO projects in the Middle East.
- Russia: Europeans and Americans need to stay close on managing sanctions and other matters related to Russia. Trump is no longer enthralled with Putin; hence, European leaders need to exploit the rapid end of this Administration’s originally planned “reset”. But, that also means that Europe has to have a united position towards Russia.
- Syria: Trump was sincerely shocked by Assad’s gas attack, and he launched the counter-strike despite opposition from the ‘America First’ crowd in his Administration. He will certainly be open to concrete ideas that address the humanitarian issues in the civil war. Joint military and civilian operations to establish safe zones for refugees from the killing fields in Syria, (also Yemen and Libya), difficult as they may be, will be a good start. Joint initiatives to save Christians and other religious minorities also come to mind.
- Turkey: How can the US and Europe work together with a NATO ally that is increasingly moving away from the West? Trump will be open to a common transatlantic attempt to define red lines, but also incentives, vis-à-vis Turkey.
- China: Managing an aggressive China that is also a major economic partner of both the US and EU is a major challenge. Trump is focused on North Korea and trade imbalances. European ideas on multilateral pressure on Chinese advances in the South China Sea will be welcome.
- Brexit: Trump has a known bias in favor of the UK in the Brexit process. But many corporate leaders keep repeating that a smooth and constructive Brexit would be good for American interests. Trump may like the idea of Brexit but he doesn’t want American companies and investors to be hurt. Europeans would diffuse a lot of US concerns if they agreed to consult on those issues involved in Brexit that have direct implications for the US.
- Trade: While some of Trump’s advisors may hold very simplistic views on the transatlantic trade balance, others believe that a trade war should definitely be avoided. This view is shared by the business community. Hence, in the footsteps of the moribund TTIP, and building on positions already agreed in that process, European leaders should propose a Transatlantic New Deal that takes into account people’s fears about losing out to globalisation, and that more visibly strengthens the position of small and medium enterprises.
- Intelligence: First, in general, Europeans have to become more pragmatic on intelligence sharing and (especially in Germany’s case) show more appreciation. Secondly, and more specifically: One of the things that could be damaged by Brexit is transatlantic intelligence cooperation. Europeans should have ideas in mind of what they want and what they will give in return.
- European Defence Cooperation: EU leaders should expect the President to applaud European efforts. But they ought to be careful not to promise what they can’t deliver in the short run. Trump may still be looking for reasons to shift American power to Asia. Above all: the EU should work on its intervention capacity while military defence against conventional attack should remain a NATO matter. Of course, strengthening the European pillar within NATO will be welcome in Washington.
Trump visit: 5 things Europe’s leaders should do – and not do – this week
22 May 2017
Donald Trump has repeatedly chastened European NATO members for spending less than 2% of their GDP on defence. In spite of recent reassuring declarations, his commitment to NATO has seemed wavering, and he displayed a readiness to coordinate with Russia in the Middle East.
Should the Trump administration reach a similar understanding with the Kremlin on Eastern Europe, the Europeans will shed tears of regret for not having followed his advice and invested in their defensive capabilities earlier.
Russia’s aggression in Georgia and Ukraine leaves little doubt as to the real unwillingness of the Kremlin to respect the sovereignty of the former soviet republics. And the Baltic States are next on the firing line. Urgent actions are needed in this field.
First, defence spending needs to be increased. West Europeans have relied upon the USA since the 1940s for their own security, de facto freeriding on US taxpayers in this field. With 23 European NATO members below the 2% threshold in defence spending, it is clear that Europeans have overlooked their national security for too long.
The time has now come for them to invest more on it. All of the European NATO member states increasing their defence spending to 2% of their GDP will send a powerful message to the Kremlin that they are serious about protecting Europe’s security and independence.
Russia’s aggression in Georgia and Ukraine leaves little doubt as to the real unwillingness of the Kremlin to respect the sovereignty of the former soviet republics.
Second, European battlegroups need to complement NATO troops in the Baltic States. Increasing defence budgets does not instantly create a safer security environment. In a 2016 report, RAND made clear that the current national defence forces of the Baltic States and the NATO units stationed there are insufficient to hold off the neighbouring Russian forces, should the latter decide to invade. Germany and other NATO members have since contributed to forming battlegroups in the Baltic States and Poland.
However, the size of NATO’s battlegroups is negligible compared to that of the Russian forces they face. Establishing permanent European battlegroups of significant size, with the necessary equipment to deter Russian aggression, would reduce the EU’s vulnerability in the east, and perhaps lead to an improvement in its relations with Russia, as the Kremlin will have to accept that it cannot encroach upon its European neighbours’ territory.
According to the RAND report, this would cost around $2.7 billion, which is far less than what would become available if countries reached the 2% threshold in defence spending.
Third, the supply of military hardware for the battlegroups needs to be homogenised. Each member state using unique military equipment takes away the option of lending that hardware to one another. Lending military hardware contributes to cutting down the costs of transferring it, and it is an invaluable asset, as troops in warzones could use leased equipment right away.
For example, Greek F-16 and Mirage 2000 pilots, being experts in intercepting Turkish military aircraft violating Greek airspace, could assist in the protection of the Baltic States’ airspace using allied jets of the same type. Creating defence equipment homogeneity requires political will. So far the EU has been unsuccessful in creating military interoperability. Nonetheless, this should become a priority in order to secure European borders.
Europeans need to direct their militaries into defending the entire EU, and not just individual European states.
The President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Junker, has repeatedly spoken in favour of establishing a single European defence force. That currently being unfeasible, the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) needs to be focused on the creation of battlegroups in member-states under threat.
Assuming that all NATO member states reach the 2% objective of defence spending over GDP that would still not deter Russia from being aggressive towards its neighbours. The fact that the European NATO member states spend on defence five times the Russian defence budget, and remain unable to secure Eastern Europe is embarrassing.
Europeans need to direct their militaries into defending the entire EU, and not just individual European states. After the end of the Napoleonic Wars the German states were facing similar threats to their existence by France and Russia. The Germans established the Federal Army to defend themselves, which was a collection of the armed forces of the member states of the German Confederation.
The EU could imitate this model in the near future, while bearing in mind that the Federal Army fell apart in 1866 due to the lack in commitment of several of its members. Thus, even more ambition may be needed in the long run.Konstantinos Lentakis Defence EU Member States Foreign Policy Leadership Security
Beyond 2%: establishing a true European defence force
10 May 2017
On April 16, Turkish voters will decide if President Erdogan will maintain the presidential powers he has held in practice since instituting a state of emergency after the failed coup attempt in July 2016. The new constitutional amendment will centralize his power, giving massive authority over legislature and judiciary without a proper checks and balances system. Though NATO and Europe have dealt with autocratic leaders in member states before, the situation with Turkey’s leadership is setting the conditions for a serious security risk to the Alliance.
United by Values?
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg continually reiterates the core principles outlined by signatories of the Washington Treaty: “Democracy, freedom of speech, freedom of the media, independence of the judiciary, protection of minorities. These are the values that unite us. They are the values NATO has defended since its foundation in 1949.”
But are these values truly upheld by all Allies? Despite the Turkish government’s promise to foster democratic principles in the last decade, Turkey has drifted sharply away from these values under the rule of President Erdogan. Contrary to Ataturk’s secular Turkey, Erdogan’s government is far from being a bridge between East and West. His new regime is using religion as a political tool to consolidate his internal power and project his authority abroad.
Under his rule, freedom of expression has been eliminated through intimidation, and violation of basic human rights is not a rare phenomenon. As a member nation, Turkey is capable of blocking the decisions on defending critical values — as already evidenced by Turkey’s refusal to allow military training with NATO partner nations due to the political tensions with Austria.
Heightened political tensions between the Turkish government and its NATO Allies are initial indications of the potential future security crisis for Europe. By exploiting this tense situation, the Turkish government has created propaganda material against the West, even going as far as to explicitly threaten European countries to not feel safe in their homelands if the diplomatic row continues.
Erdogan’s attempts to mobilize the considerable Turkish diaspora in Europe with strong rhetoric should not be taken lightly. If Erdogan attains his goals via referendum, he will completely dismantle the foundation of the Turkish secular republic. Thus, post-referendum Turkey would no longer be a true ally but rather an unpredictable one.
Turkey Turns East
Once backed by NATO against Russia during the downed jet crisis in November 2015, the Turkish government initiated the normalization of highly-tensioned relations with Russia after the failed coup attempt in Turkey.
The new partners, Russia and Turkey, have held positive discussions on Syria, on the construction of a nuclear power plant, and likely sale of Russian S-400 long-range air and missile defence system. Additionally, Turkey’s appointment by Russia and China to chair the 2017 Energy Club of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) was a significant indication of her divergence from the West. And in the most concerning move toward the East, Turkey signed an intelligence sharing agreement with Russia.
Although European institutions typically analyse this rapprochement as a tactical manoeuvre before the referendum, it seems to have already started providing strategic outcomes.
The methods Erdogan has used against Europe are evolving to be similar to those used by President Putin. Turkey, though, has an additional tool of leverage that can be traced within the Turkish diaspora in Europe. The revealed ill-favoured intelligence activities of Turkish government among the Turkish origin European citizens is similar to Russian intelligence activities in Ukraine.
State-sponsored AK Trolls operate in social media channels very similarly to Putin’s Kremlin Troll Army. Such integration between Russia and Turkey would certainly be a worrying development for NATO’s cohesion.
The EU-Turkey Refugee Deal, as well as the country’s geostrategic location are important points of leverage for President Erdogan. In the fight against ISIS, for example, the West is leaning on Turkey to provide staging areas for equipment and aircraft, and seeks agreement on opposition targets. Particularly for countering the threats and risks emanating from the South, it is important that the cooperation and partnership with Turkey remains solid.
However, there is no doubt that Erdogan’s new Turkey will not maintain a foundation for a feasible alliance with Europe. It is worth remembering that many in the Turkish public are also looking for alternatives to Erdogan’s regime. Current public opinion polls show that around 50 percent of Turkish voters who do not support the constitutional change seem extremely oppressed by fear.
As indications of Turkish deviation from the West are growing each day, Europe needs to set priorities for mitigating this risk. Otherwise, Erdogan’s Turkey will likely turn from a NATO ally to a source of instability for the entire region.Fatih Yilmaz Democracy Elections Foreign Policy Leadership Security
NATO ally or insider threat? How Turkey’s referendum vote will affect European security
11 Apr 2017
The EU has been paying increasing attention to the phenomenon of information warfare. However, this has not gone as far as to penetrate the fog of disinformation surrounding the motherland to investigate how the Kremlin’s propaganda machine operates in Russia itself.
The Kremlin uses internal propaganda both to maintain legitimacy and as a defence mechanism against the outside world. By drawing attention away from domestic problems and creating an environment of fear and impending doom, it portrays an alternative reality in which Russia is surrounded by mythical enemies.
The EU is portrayed as an aggressive and expansionist entity that wants to destroy Russia, while at the same time it is depicted as a weak, ‘decadent’ and ‘un-Christian’ union that cannot cope with global challenges.
On the other hand, the Kremlin’s main caveat in doing so, is that Russia’s success is inherently connected with the failure of the West and democracy.
This paper scrutinises the Kremlin’s propaganda machine and its popular narratives about the EU in order to understand how Russia’s media presents the EU and why less than a quarter of the population has a positive opinion of it.Eastern Europe European Union Foreign Policy
How We Have Become an Enemy in the Eyes of Russia: The EU as Portrayed by Kremlin Propaganda
21 Mar 2017
The rapid deterioration of relations between European governments and Turkey in recent weeks may come to be seen as a watershed in EU-Turkey relations. The leader of a NATO ally and EU accession candidate country did not hesitate to exploit the vulnerability of European leaderships ahead of crucial electoral battles by mobilizing thousands of people in the heart of Europe.
Given also his role in the refugee issue, his authoritarianism, and his fickle personality, it is time for the EU to start viewing Erdogan’s Turkey as nothing less than a long-term security risk.
In the last few years Europe has seen security threats multiplying. The annexation of Crimea heightened anxieties about Russian aggression. Russia also has other levers of pressure, including energy resources, cyber-warfare and, most recently, a multifaceted project of disruption of Western democracies, ranging from support for populist parties to disinformation campaigns. Then, a series of terrorist attacks in 2015 and 2016 revealed the extent of the jihadist threat.
All these are clearly major threats for Europe, covering a broad range of security challenges: geopolitical and ideological, global and regional, internal and external. But if there is one actor that embodies all these different dimensions of risk at the same time – geopolitical pressure, internal subversion, democratic disruption, and an increasingly erratic behavior of its leadership – it is Turkey.
It is time for the EU to start viewing Erdogan’s Turkey as nothing less than a long-term security risk.
Turkey has always been a crucial strategic partner of the West, but the refugee crisis of 2015 severely upset the power relationship between Turkey and the EU, punctuated by Turkey’s desire to accede to the Union. Not unlike Russia with its gas, Turkey found itself controlling the flow of a critical commodity – refugees.
Not unlike Russia, it saw this as an opportunity to extort benefits from the EU, which it promptly did by forcing upon the EU a deal in which it gained various concessions in return for curbing the refugee flows into Europe.
This process took place in parallel with increasing authoritarianism and concentration of power in the hands of President Erdogan internally. After the failed coup of the summer of 2016, Erdogan engaged in sweeping purges of the Turkish state and society.
If his intended constitutional reform goes through in April, Turkey will differ very little from Putin’s Russia, a personal semi-authoritarian nationalist regime with populist overtones, where the main legitimating mechanism of a deeply entrenched leadership is antagonism of the West.
Events of the last few weeks have added a new layer to the difficult geopolitical relationship between Europe and Turkey. The massive rallies in favour of Erdogan in Austria, Germany, Holland and France have highlighted that, while Europeans were agonizing over the compatibility of Islam with liberal democracy, they long underestimated Turkish nationalism – an ideology as sticky and potent as any religion – as an obstacle to the integration of thousands of citizens of immigrant descent.
If his intended constitutional reform goes through in April, Turkey will differ very little from Putin’s Russia.
The difficult relationship between Turkish immigrants and their host countries is nothing new of course, but only now has a leader in Turkey shown the intention (and ability) to use these populations as levers of pressure on European governments and to settle domestic scores.
Despite his effort to disrupt European democracy through trolls and hackers, Putin could only dream of commanding the kind of street power in European capitals that Erdogan enjoys.
Erdogan embodies today the sum of all that urope fears: an authoritarian and populist leader (like Putin), with the capacity to strong-arm European leaders thanks to his key position in the refugee problem (akin to Putin and energy), and now with the expressed ambition to use diasporas as a weapon of foreign and domestic policy, disrupting electoral processes and fracturing societies in Europe (thus playing a role akin to that of radical Islamism) and crashing opposition at home.
Instead of an ally, or even a difficult partner, the EU must start viewing Erdogan’s Turkey as a multidimensional security risk.
The current standoff with the Netherlands will probably cool off after the Dutch and the Turkish electoral campaigns are over. But with elections in Germany looming, Erdogan will surely be tempted to employ his hybrid (internal and external) geopolitical arsenal again.
The EU is dealing with a leader who understands his relationship with Europe not simply in transactional terms, but as an opportunity for extortion in every available facet.
Instead of an ally, or even a difficult partner, the EU must start viewing Erdogan’s Turkey as a multidimensional security risk. Breaking off relations completely of course is not an option, but a serious discussion on a strategic approach to Turkey must now start. This must include a thorough appreciation of how Turkey can challenge European security and democracy internally and externally.
As a multidimensional security risk Turkey requires a holistic approach, including both internal (e.g. addressing the lagging integration of immigrants of Turkish descent in European societies) and external (e.g. effectively securing European) defense.
The EU must remain alert about opportunities to engage Turkey diplomatically. But it must be ready to face up to extortion or internal disruption as well.
Perhaps nothing would work better to rebalance the EU-Turkey relationship than challenging Erdogan on his own turf. As the regime in Turkey is rapidly losing all vestiges of a functional democracy, and given the lack of genuine democratic opposition (opposition parties in Turkey are either secular-nationalist or ethnic-sectarian), the EU must engage in serious bottom-up democracy promotion in Turkey, helping to foster a real liberal democratic culture in Turkish society.
If Erdogan thinks he can turn European societies into a battleground of the EU-Turkey relationship, the EU must answer in kind. Europeans must make the emergence of a genuine Turkish democracy the key strategic goal of their policy towards Turkey, and must be ready to invest resources and time to ensure this outcome comes to fruition.Angelos Chryssogelos Elections Foreign Policy Leadership Security Values
Erdogan: an EU security risk?
16 Mar 2017
It is widely believed that Britain’s decision to leave the EU and Donald Trump’s election to the White House have strengthened both the case for and the possibility of an ambitious EU defence policy, perhaps even of an EU army.
This short paper argues that, contrary to widespread fears, the EU can become a powerful security and defence policy player without adopting the hierarchical structures of traditional states and while maintaining decentralised defence responsibilities and a pluralist institutional framework.
Two relevant historical examples—the Holy Roman Empire and the Hanseatic League—are presented to draw general lessons on how the EU could accomplish this, thus becoming an effective ‘postmodern power.Defence Foreign Policy Security
Security Policy: The Case for a Postmodern EU Defence Architecture
15 Mar 2017
In these heady days of the early Trump era, one may be forgiven for thinking that for Europe, none of the old certainties hold true anymore. Consequently, to many European pundits, it is obvious that whether we want it or not, we are forced to rethink our strategic posture from scratch. Some advise that we now have to become self-sufficient in security – because the new US President has, at least in interviews and tweets, sown doubt about the 70 year old US security commitment to Europe.
Some have argued that we should kiss and make up with Russia because under Trump, the US risk to overtake us in the race of who’ll be Putin’s darling – at least until recently. And some claim that the best thing we can do now is to replace the US by China as a strategic partner, because they seem to have so much to offer economically and, let’s be honest, also just to spite the new occupant of the White House.
President Xi’s chiseled words don’t match the bleak reality of what China is doing.
Quite frankly, this type of knee-jerk ‘Europe First’ strategy can only backfire because it is built on false premises. It is true that, while Donald Trump’s tweets continued to haunt us, President Xi Jin Ping held a remarkable speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos. In it, he sang the praise of socially conscious globalisation, open borders and global governance – just as the new US President was shouting ‘America First!’ from our TV screens.
Rhetorically, China has also been an advocate of a strong EU for some time. And last but not least, the grandious project of a ‘New Silk Road’ linking Asia to Europe might come to symbolise not only stronger economic but also strategic links. But one thorough look at China and the world today is enough to see that President Xi’s chiseled words don’t match the bleak reality of what China is doing as we speak.
The Chinese Communist Party has never stopped considering ‘Western’ ideas about human rights a threat.
First, in the South China Sea, the Beijing government is continuing its expansion against all global rules, to the great worries of its neighbours in the region, and rejecting the consultation and arbitration mechanisms foreseen in the UN system and the International Court of Justice. This is all the more dangerous because Russia has, in recent years, begun doing exactly the same in Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine: undermining the global liberal order, not only with words, but also deeds.
Second, China does not really seem to favour a strong European Union. Its ’16 + 1’ initiative, comprising 16 cash-strapped countries inside and outside the EU, is clearly designed to create a generic grouping of countries that share a communist past as well as financial dependency on China turning into some degree of political subservience.
Hungary is a case in point – its breaking ranks with the rest of the EU on condemning Chinese expansionism in Asia is exemplary of Beijing’s divide et impera strategy. Chinese support for sub-EU regional groupings now also seems to extend to the Mediterranean members and even to the Nordics.
Third, President Xi’s lofty appeals to global governance eclipse China’s peculiar ideas about national governance, as they come out in its unconditional support for corrupt, dictatorial regimes in Africa, and even more in its crackdown on freedom of expression and the first buds of civil society in China itself. The increasing suppression of previously assured civic rights in Hong Kong, and especially the kidnapping of EU citizens (Chinese with double nationalities) from South East Asia, are examples of what is really going on.
The Chinese Communist Party has never stopped considering ‘Western’ ideas about human rights a threat. All this is not to mention the regular military threats against democratic Taiwan. Finally, one has to mention Chinese state-sponsored criminal activity, as in the systematic violation of copyright law and the organised hacking of American and European technology firms.
All this does not mean that Europe should not seek cooperation with China on issues of global importance, such as trade and climate change. But let’s remain realistic as to the prospects of a strategic partnership with a country whose governing elite and many of its citizens have such a different outlook on our world.
Making America great again is not possible without friends and allies.
Instead of flirting with China, we’d better try to convince the US administration that making America great again is not possible without friends and allies, and that the most natural members of that group will always be found in Europe. The President’s State of the Union speech on 28 February, though mainly focused on domestic affairs, should be read as a sign that the administration is thinking along those lines now.
Given America’s old and strong democracy, Trump, even if he tried, would have a hard time overturning the global liberal order against America’s own creation – a system of value-based alliances that has been developed for over a century. For Europe, it’s time to get real and start working with what we still have, instead of relying on what we’re supposed to hear in Davos and other places.Roland Freudenstein Democracy EU-US Foreign Policy Trade
Why China is still a threat and America still our ally
03 Mar 2017
“People tend to forget that it is not just about pro-bono work in the European neighborhood; it is also our own interests that are at stake there.” This point, made by Martens Centre Executive Tomi Huhtanen, kicked off a debate organised in Brussels on 31 January 2017 on the strategic rethink of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP).
The EU’s current ENP policy is focused on supporting democratic transformation and creating economic opportunities in its neighbourhood through technical cooperation and economic integration.
But with growing instability including the Brexit decision, rising Euroscepticism, new ‘hybrid warfare’ threats, an assertive Russia, the rise of Islamic State and declining US engagement in European security, Europe has to take bold and decisive action to secure its long-term interests.
As the spillover effects of instability in the regions outside of the EU are taking a significant toll on the Union, rethinking the way it deals with its neighbourhood has to play a central part in the EU’s Global Strategy.
According to Salome Samadashvili, former EU Ambassador and current member of the Georgian Parliament, “the EU must graduate from a global actor to a geopolitical actor.” In order to achieve this, she argues for a pragmatic, yet principled and creative approach to EU’s policies in its neighbourhood.
EU institutions think in five or ten year terms. But if you operate in Georgia or in Libya you only have the luxury of planning up to one month in advance. Salome Samadashvili, former EU Ambassador and current Georgian MP
Sandra Kalniete, Latvian Member of the European Parliament added that countries in the neighbourhood need to be assessed case-by-case; for too long, the EU has been trying to apply a one-size-fits-all approach that has not benefited neither the EU, nor its partners.
During the event, Kalniete also emphasised a shift “from rule-based to deal-based diplomacy” taken by the new US administration; however, she maintained that the EU needs to stay true to its values while projecting its power abroad.
Not giving up our values while adding more pragmatism to the way Europe deals with its neighbourhood was a point also echoed by Bruno Lété, Security and Defence Transatlantic Fellow with the German Marshall Fund of the United States.
In ten years from now China will be an inevitable factor in EU’s neighborhood policy towards the Mediterranean. Bruno Lété, Security and Defence Transatlantic Fellow, German Marshall Fund of the United States
Subsequently, he argued for more short-term flexibility rather than long-term planning on the part of the EU. His third recommendation was that any successful foreign policy needs to be coupled with the ability to project power; this is where, according to Lété, NATO and EU-NATO cooperation come into play. Rather than debating where to place shared defence assets, the West needs to work more on efficient ways of delivering training, education and financial support to its partners.Defence Development Foreign Policy Neighbourhood Policy Security
EU’s foreign policy needs values and muscle to survive
01 Feb 2017
Russian officials have had to contain their glee in monitoring recent political events in America and Europe. They appear to think their days in the cold may soon be over. Much has been made of President-elect Donald Trump’s wish to improve relations with Moscow, but the last news out of France appears even more auspicious to Moscow.
The far-right candidate, Marine Le Pen, is known for her pro-Putin sympathies. Now, with François Fillon’s nomination as the center-right candidate, both major contenders in next year’s French presidential election are favorably disposed toward Russia.
These warmer feelings towards Russia are based, mainly, on changing threat perceptions in the West. Since the emergence of the Islamic State and the proliferation of terrorist attacks in Europe and America, many Europeans and Americans appear to view Moscow’s aggression against its neighbors, such as Ukraine and Georgia, as an increasingly esoteric problem.
Particularly after Russia’s intervention in Syria, even on the right many now view Russia not as a threat to the West but as a natural ally in defeating the jihadi threat.
These warmer feelings towards Russia are based, mainly, on changing threat perceptions in the West.
While this notion is gaining popularity, it is at best the triumph of hope over experience, and at worst a dangerous delusion. Russia’s interaction with radical Islam over two decades shows that it is part of the problem, not the solution. In fact, leaders in Moscow have a track record of manipulating radical Islam whenever that has suited their purposes – including systematic collusion with Islamic extremists. A few examples illustrate this policy.
Exhibit one is the twenty-year insurgency in Chechnya and the North Caucasus. In this conflict, the forces fighting for independence from Russia were divided between secular nationalists and Islamic radicals. Because the secular nationalists enjoyed considerable legitimacy both in the West and among the local population, Moscow actively encouraged the growth of the jihadi elements, which were disliked locally and anathema to the West.
Moscow worked hard to kill off the leaders of Chechnya’s secular nationalists. By contrast, there is compelling evidence of collusion between Russia’s secret services and the region’s most notorious radicals, such as Shamil Basayev and Arbi Barayev, and of systematic Russian infiltration of the radical Islamic groups from the North Caucasus.
As Russia imposed a brutal proxy regime in Chechnya, it sought to leave Chechens and foreigners alike with a binary choice: tolerate the brutal Kadyrov regime, or side with the jihadis.
Russia’s interaction with radical Islam over two decades shows that it is part of the problem, not the solution.
Exhibit two is the case of Russia’s foreign fighters in Syria. Ahead of the 2014 Sochi winter Olympics, held next to the North Caucasus, Moscow in spite of its infiltration of jihadi networks faced an acute risk of terrorist attacks. So, as Novaya Gazeta’s Elena Milashina has showed, Russia’s Federal Security Service organized a “pipeline” to facilitate the export of North Caucasian radicals to fight in Syria. Would-be fighters were provided passports and safe passage; some were recruited by Russian intelligence services.
Indeed, foreign fighters from Russia have reached higher in the hierarchy of the Islamic State than any other foreign fighters, and work alongside Saddam Hussein’s former Baathist officers who – similarly – have deep connections to Moscow dating to the Soviet period. Is this a coincidence? The exact nature of these relationships is by nature murky, but the level of state infiltration of the jihadi circles in Russia at the very least raises serious questions about Moscow’s links to the Islamic State.
But, critics may counter, has not Russia’s intervention in Syria served to wipe out these jihadis? Again, while this is the Russian rhetoric, the record shows otherwise. Never mind that Russia has tried, falsely, to take credit for the American drone strikes that have decimated the Islamic State leadership.
By now, it is widely established that Russian airstrikes have not primarily targeted the Islamic State at all, but other rebel groups fighting the Assad regime, as in Aleppo. In reality, Moscow is taking a page from the playbook in Chechnya: by eliminating the rebel groups, it strives to mold a situation that presents a binary choice, and where the only alternative to the Assad regime is the Islamic State.
Exhibit three is Afghanistan, where Moscow since last year established contacts with the Taliban insurgency, which is responsible for the deaths of thousands of American soldiers. Citing the need to fight the Islamic State franchise in the country, Moscow began intelligence sharing programs with the Taliban, and provided this jihadi group with international legitimacy.
Even Russia’s claims to be a bulwark against Islamic radicalization in nearby Central Asia fails to hold up to scrutiny. In fact, it is by now established that most Central Asians fighting in Syria or Iraq are not radicalized in their home countries, where governments have a solid track record of countering radicalization.
In fact, the large majority of Central Asian recruits to Islamic radical movements have been radicalized while toiling as temporary and often illegal workers in Russia itself. Far from being a bulwark against extremism, Russia is domestically an incubator of radical Islam.
This bleak picture raises the question: if Russia is not fighting Islamic extremism, then what are its real goals? The answer is twofold. First, in places a different as Chechnya and Syria, Russia actively tries to shape the actors on the battlefield to leave a binary choice between Islamic extremists and brutal strongmen dependent on Moscow.
Second, in theaters as diverse as Afghanistan and Syria, Russia’s focus is squarely to undermine the national security interests of the United States. In Afghanistan, Russia is supporting the Taliban against Islamic State; while in Syria it claims to fight ISIS, but in fact ignores it and instead targets other rebel groups. The common denominator? Russia alternatively bolsters America’s main enemy, or actively targets its local allies.
The notion that Russia is, or could be, an ally against the threat of radical Islam is a dangerous delusion. Russia’s record makes it clear that it sees America, not Islamic extremism, as its main enemy. So long as Vladimir Putin runs Russia, Russia will remain part of the problem, not the solution.Svante Cornell Defence EU-Russia Foreign Policy
Russia: an Enabler of Jihad?
16 Jan 2017
The past year has witnessed a major shift in the relationships between the four Central European countries that make up the Visegrád Group. In matters related to migration, the members of the alliance have worked together in Brussels as a cohesive bloc throughout 2016.
But in the wake of Brexit, simmering internal divisions have arisen within this regional alliance over the EU’s future. The Visegrád Group acts as an amplifier, an ad hoc coalition, reinforcing regional positions where they exist. Its diplomatic infrastructure and other structural factors are here to stay, but the key drivers of its stances are now domestic politics and the role of the countries’ leaders.
In the absence of a shared vision for the future of Europe and the role of EU institutions, the honeymoon period seems to be over. A ‘conservative revolution’ in Poland has created an illiberal axis with Hungary, where a sovereigntist narrative holds sway, while the Czech and Slovak governments have maintained a more pragmatic line on the EU. The new risk is that reinventing the EU will come at the expense of (divided) Central Europeans.
Read the full article in the December 2016 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.Milan Nic EU Member States European Union Foreign Policy Leadership
The Visegrád Group in the EU: 2016 as a turning-point?
20 Dec 2016
The existence of natural panaceas or silver bullets in diplomatic agreements is currently under examination. Diplomacy has evolved from the classical theories of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, which stressed the importance of objective factors, to modern ideas that highlight the human element as well.
This explains why finding generalised models in diplomatic arrangements was easier in the old forms of diplomacy than in its more modern counterparts. Diplomatic agreements have become increasingly complex, covering many fields beyond conflict in the traditional sense. The Dayton Accords and Minsk Agreements are good examples of this.
This complexity hampers our ability to find a universal formula which can work for all diplomatic situations and agreements. For some scholars a settlement must produce a set of arrangements that lasts for generations, demonstrating robustness and permanence, while for others, the measurement of success is based on the ability of the agreement to meet initial expectations.
Read the full article in the December 2016 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.Jorge Mestre-Jorda Foreign Policy Leadership
Are there formulas for successful diplomatic agreements?
19 Dec 2016
Immediately after Donald Trump was elected 45th President of the United States, many commentators have suggested that his policies toward Russia will not be as accommodating as his campaign rhetoric on Vladimir Putin, and that Trump may eventually become a difficult counterpart for the current Russian leadership. Arguments for that theory include, among others, persistent fundamental differences on certain issues, Putin’s unreliability and unpredictability, Trump’s focus on ‘America First’, pressure from certain anti-Putin forces in the GOP establishment, etc.
However, all these arguments consider only the bilateral U.S.-Russia dimension as if it existed in a vacuum. But if you put Trump-Russia relations in the broader global context that is about to emerge because of Trump’s presidency, all these differences and problems don’t stand a chance to outweigh a perfect global match between the common interests of both Putin and Trump.
Trump’s foreign policy is largely uncharted waters, but one thing is very clear – he will be involved in many important global conflicts. Rearranging NAFTA and other trade agreements, dealing with China as a rising power, loads of issues in the Middle East (Syria and the potential scrapping of the Iranian nuclear deal to begin with, but there’s always so much more in that particular region).
What do you do when you’re about to engage in many tough battles of global significance, and want to cover your flanks and back? One of the first things – you look for important players with whom you can reach a solid ‘ceasefire’ to untie your hands for bigger things. This is what Turkish President Erdogan did a few months ago, almost simultaneously reaching out for a thaw with Russia and Israel, relations with both of whom were quite difficult recently, to untie his hands for multiple other ventures both at home and abroad.
In Trump’s case, Putin’s Russia dangerously fits into this fundamental logic. There are clear signs in Moscow that Putin has been carefully preparing for ways to approach Trump. He’ll appeal to his business logic (the flip side of which is his complete lack of experience in public governance and international affairs) and offer him a “deal” – the term so dear to the newly elected U.S. leader: Give me back some of the minor stuff which stands in the way of our relationship (Ukraine, human rights in Russia, financial sanctions) – and I’ll support you in your bigger global efforts.
Given Putin’s skills in psychology and recruitment inherited from his earlier profession – which were so brilliantly used initially with George W. Bush, for whom just one look into Putin’s “soul” seems to have overshadowed all Russian authoritarian trends in the beginning of Putin’s rule – that looks quite achievable.
Yes, on the other hand, there are established Republicans demanding sanctions for human rights violations – but Trump would easily answer by keeping in place the personal sanctions lists against Russian officials, such as the Magnitsky list, which, in fact, is not too much of a problem for Putin. The key problem for him are the financial sanctions imposed by the Obama administration – and here, there are huge U.S. corporate interests behind lifting those.
Lifting financial sanctions and keeping the window-dressing lists of Russian human-rights abusers banned from entry into the U.S.: Putin will be happy with that. What he wants most is to return to major borrowing in the Western financial markets, not allowing his prosecutors and judges to freely travel to Miami (in fact, Putin himself had recently prohibited all these people from travelling abroad).
Ukraine? Putin may even offer a real de-escalation in Donbass in return for a more general U.S. withdrawal from political and financial support for the current Ukrainian government. This would also give an opportunity to Trump to say ‘See, I’ve achieved what Obama couldn’t – real peace in Eastern Ukraine’.
This is how a big Trump-Putin deal might look like – and nothing serious seems to stand in its way, given Trump’s priorities focused on other things, and Putin’s apparent readiness to propose and psychologically ‘sell’ this new U.S.-Russia non-aggression pact.Vladimir Milov EU-Russia EU-US Foreign Policy Transatlantic Values
The Art of the (Trump-Putin) Deal
14 Nov 2016
As Tunisia continues to move forward on the path of democratisation and pluralism, the problems it may still face remain significant. A comparative analysis of the (failed) Algerian attempt to democratise and the current process underway in Tunisia could shed light on what Tunisia needs to do to avoid a setback in its democratisation process.
Read the full article in the December 2016 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.Dario Cristiani Arab Spring Democracy Foreign Policy Mediterranean North Africa
Consolidating pluralism under the terrorist threat: the Tunisian case and the Algerian experience
07 Nov 2016
Regional and local authorities already promote their own policies and actions in the international arena for humanitarian, political, commercial, cultural and institutional reasons. From cross-border to decentralised cooperation, under the concept of City diplomacy, local authorities often move independently and actively, both in the international arena and in the EU’s decision-making processes.
They act during conflicts, providing peace-building and dialogue opportunities, and take action in post-conflict regions or regions in need. This form of diplomacy complements traditional diplomacy and is mostly activated when the latter is frozen or required to remain low profile for contingent, political reasons. These new actors, with strong devolved powers at home and strong political leadership, deserve more attention from international players such as the European Commission and some of the United Nations’ agencies.
The current scheme of international cooperation is overly rigid. There is a need for more flexibility so that support—including financial support—can be better targeted to meet specific needs. This could lead to regional and local actors becoming direct recipients of international financial support for planning and running decentralised or bottom-up forms of cooperation, partnership and political dialogue.
Complementing traditional diplomacy: regional and local authorities going international
07 Nov 2016
The current Western liberal order is in danger of becoming vulnerable to threats posed by political systems which have no regard for universal values, such as human rights, and are willing to use brutal force—as is the case with Putin’s Russia and aggressive Islamist movements.
The spillover effects of instability in the regions outside of the EU are taking a significant toll on the Union. Unless the West succeeds in making a case for the universality of the values underpinning its institutions and shows the capacity to defend those values, in the medium and long term, the West could lose this battle. Europe has no better way to defend itself than by expanding the geographic reach of its ideological sphere of influence.
This is why the EU has to invest in state-building and security in its Eastern and Southern neighbourhood. This paper argues that the EU needs to rethink the focus of its European Neighbourhood Policy; it needs to go beyond the limited scope of technical cooperation or the project of economic integration, and must invest in itself as a ‘geopolitical’ actor.
The best way to do so is through the Global Strategy on Foreign and Security Policy. The EU has to prioritise its role as a ‘stabiliser’ and security actor in its immediate neighbourhood.Democracy Foreign Policy Neighbourhood Policy Security
Good or Bad Neighbours: The Main European Security Challenge
07 Nov 2016
The paper considers current political challenges encountered by Georgia and the geopolitical framework in which the EU-Georgia relationship develops. While Georgia is apparently better off on the democratic front, clouds are gathering again ahead of the forthcoming parliamentary elections — a possible game changer.
Economy remain sluggish, political landscape fragmented and unpredictable, and security concerns unabated. Plagued by a multitude of problems and challenges, the West’s interest in the country has been diminishing, while Russia is intensifying its propaganda machine and other dangerous tools at its disposal.
The EU can and should develop a more differentiated approach to the South Caucasus and the Eastern Neighbourhood — and Georgia, in particular— based less on geography and more on democratic achievements and strategic importance. It is also discussed what the EU and other actors such as EuEastern Europe Elections EU-Russia Foreign Policy Neighbourhood Policy
What the EU Can, May and Should Do to Support Georgia
30 Sep 2016
The latest coup attempt in Turkey came as a surprise both due to the baffling logic behind it and the awkwardness of its implementation. Of course, many reasons existed that made some in the army unhappy with Erdoğan. However, the leadership of the army had been already replaced with Erdoğan’s loyalists, while the population would not support a coup.
Many both within and outside Turkey disapprove of his authoritarian tendencies: the resumed war against the Kurds; his early support of Islamist rebels in Syria; the crackdown on democratic freedoms and free press; humiliating apology to Russia’s Putin after all previous sabre-rattling; and, finally, his desire to change the constitution aiming at super-presidency. However, Erdoğan still enjoys the support of about half of Turkey’s population, due to the prosperity he brought to many, his appeal to traditionalist feeling, clever populism and macho charisma.
Erdoğan, like many opportunistic rulers, is excellent at turning even the most unfavourable circumstances to his personal benefit. This pattern is being reiterated once again, as the coup is used as a pretext for doing whatever he intended to do anyway – pursuing a one-man rule by cleansing of all opposition. Still, the coup serves as a gloomy harbinger of future troubles, as Erdoğan tries to use these events to further strengthen his already formidable authority and clout. However, it is far from obvious that this will be equally beneficial for the country’s democratic future or even prosperity.
Indeed, the writing is on the wall for Turkey. Apart from the slowing of the Turkish economy, one may expect falling investment amid potential instability and civil strife, as well as scared-off tourist flows diverted to safer destinations. If capital punishment is introduced that will mean a long-term goodbye to European integration plans, while cooling relations with Europe will hurt both trade and the international standing of the country.
Immediately after the coup, Federica Mogherini explicitly warned Turkey that countries allowing the death penalty cannot join the EU. However, John Kerry’s warning sounded even more chilling – while America stands squarely on the side of the elected leadership in Turkey, NATO also has a requirement with respect to democracy. Now, if Turkey’s government is ready to drop the Western support and its European aspiration, and even risk losing its NATO membership, it is difficult to imagine any bright future either for the country or its leadership.
Now one may look at all of this from a totally different, Caucasian perspective. Turkey is one of the key actors in the South Caucasus, and either its weakening or its alienation from the West may damage the currently existing fragile balance and bring around instability, along with strengthening the Russian dominance. After the attempted coup, Erdoğan has applied efforts to restore ties between Turkey and Russia, and such rapprochement may even lead to Turkey’s political realignment.
Erdoğan’s actions have caused strong criticism from Turkey’s NATO allies for the unproportional crackdown on alleged opponents, while Turkey in its turn has praised Russia for its support since, and Erdogan will visit Russia on 9 August, which now, according to Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Simsek “isn’t just our close and friendly neighbor, but also a strategic partner”. Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in his turn stated, that Turkey receive “unconditional support” from Russia over the coup attempt, while anti-U.S. sentiment was rising in the country.
There is one more important development in the Turkey-Russia relationship: beyond lifting all anti-Turkish sanctions introduced after the downing of the Russian military aircraft in Syria, Russian officials started talking about the revival of the South Stream gas pipeline project, which may negatively influence alternative energy projects involving Azerbaijan and Georgia. No doubt such changes may indeed endanger the big-scale projects aiming to bring Caspian gas and oil to the West, with Georgia serving as an important transit hub.
Some other developments related to events in Turkey can already be expected in the South Caucasus. Turkey’s weakened geopolitical weight or its geopolitical realignment may in turn lead to the dangerous weakening of Azerbaijan’s position vis-à-vis Armenia regarding the Mountainous Karabakh issue and may bring back the flaring of hostilities if not full-blown war.
Immediately after the coup, Azerbaijan’s president Aliev sent a letter of unequivocal support to Erdogan, but other developments are even more expressive. Already on July 20, Azerbaijan’s Education Ministry announced that an allegedly Gülen-affiliated Qafqas University in Baku has been closed down, and more action along the same lines is expected, as Gülenists have been actively supporting educational institutions both in Azerbaijan and in Georgia.
But the repercussions of the Turkish coup may go even further, both in reality and in public perception. Even the timing of the recent hostage-taking and violence in Armenia’s capital Yerevan has been paradoxically linked by some observers to developments in Turkey. While in the case of Georgia Turkey can hardly be seen as an important military factor, Turkey’s weakening and the total regional domination of Russia hardly gives grounds for expecting anything good for Georgia’s pro-western aspirations and security.
On the whole, the recent developments in Turkey give cause for concern and illustrate that the future of the region remains in limbo.Teona Lavrelashvili Defence Democracy Eastern Europe Foreign Policy Security
A failed coup in Turkey and its possible repercussions: the view from the Caucasus
28 Jul 2016
A lot remains unclear regarding the attempted coup that shook Turkey. But it is possible to draw some preliminary conclusions about its background and implications.
The coup was not planned and implemented within the chain of command. The Chief of General Staff and the heads of the crucial First Army and Special Forces remained loyal to the government. This, not people on the street, was the key reason the coup failed. Not least, it allowed President Erdogan to slip out of Marmaris before being caught and to get to Istanbul.
The coup appears to have been hastily put together and poorly implemented. The failure to seize or liquidate the president, cabinet, and vital communication infrastructure made it possible for Erdogan to regain the initiative. This suggests that the plotters’ hands were forced, and that the coup was launched prematurely. There are suggestions that a list was leaked before the coup of officers scheduled for discharge and arrest, which could have precipitated the coup, explaining the lack of proper preparation.
The most vexing question concerns the exact identity of the coup plotters. Who were the architects behind what appears on the surface to be a faceless, even leaderless coup? The Turkish government is pointing fingers at the Fethullah Gülen movement – something that may seem counter-intuitive, because it was precisely Erodgan’s confrontation with them two years ago that led him to let the military back in from the cold and rebuild for himself a ruling coalition much more right-wing nationalist in nature, united by the struggle against the Kurds.
But that said, it has long been assumed that Gülenist cliques were present in the military at mid-career ranks. But no one believes that Gülenist officers had risen to the ranks of three or four star generals. Thus, while it is very likely that Gülenist officers were involved, it is equally obvious that they could not have carried this out on their own. The more senior generals apparently involved do not seem to have any Gülenist affiliations.
Hence, the coup may have been carried out by an unholy alliance between a faction of old-school Kemalist and Gülenist officers. If this is the case, it would mean that while Erdogan allied with the top military brass against the Gülenists, another military fraction allied with the Gülenists against Erdogan.
This is what Turkey has come to: its politics in the past few years can best be understood as a struggle for power between two Islamic sects. In the process, Turkey’s military appears now to have at least three separate fractions and to be much more politicized and divided than has been assumed.
A further important aspect of the coup was President Erdogan’s response: he mobilised his supporters through the use of Islamic rhetoric that would have been unthinkable even five years ago. Mosques were ordered by the State religious directorate, which Erdogan has built up into a behemoth, to broadcast calls for prayer all through the night and to call regime supporters out on the streets. Often, the call appears to have been framed as “Jihad”.
And indeed, those who came out to oppose the coup almost exclusively looked like Islamist activists singing Islamist chants. It is already apparent that President Erdogan has concluded that Islamist mobilisation was what saved him, hence the remaining inhibitions against further Islamisation of Turkey will dissipate. Erdogan’s Turkey is likely to more openly deploy Islamist rhetoric and policies.
The Gülen fraternity’s alleged responsibility for the coup is already being used as pretext for a full-scale purge of state institutions. Unlike previous occasions, the coup gives Erdogan the opportunity to arrest and jail opponents by the thousands. It is already clear that repression will spread beyond Gülenists: entire lists of scholars, journalists and officials to be jailed have already been leaked. Whatever is left of Turkish democracy is about to be neutralised, and if Erdogan completes this repressive purge, it goes without saying that Turkey can no longer be called a democracy.
The failed coup will have important foreign policy implications. Erdogan and his entourage have long believed the Gülen fraternity to be following Washington’s orders, and senior government officials have already suggested that the U.S. was behind the coup. Erdogan appears to be making extradition of Gülen a litmus test of the U.S.-Turkish alliance, a demand that will likely not be granted, given the lack of any kind of concrete evidence. In fact, the involvement of Gülenist officers does not necessary implicate the ailing preacher himself in the coup.
In any case, the U.S.-Turkish relationships has been put at risk, and Secretary John Kerry’s threat of consequences for Turkey’s NATO membership has shown that perhaps Washington is tiring of Erdogan’s antics. The most likely immediate point of contention will be the Incirlik military base, which the U.S. uses to hit ISIS targets in Syria.
Similarly, Turkey-EU relations will be impacted, most immediately because it is hard to imagine how the EU will now go ahead with visa liberalisation. In turn, that likely puts the cynical migration deal between Brussels and Ankara to death. If Turkey reinstates the death penalty, which is quite plausible, Turkish-EU relations are likely to deteriorate even further.
In conclusion, it is important to see the coup attempt as an indication of the deeper decay of the Turkish state under Erdogan’s rule. As Erdogan has sought to concentrate power in his own hands, the exercise of power has become increasingly informal, all checks and balances removed, and all institutions including his own political party increasingly ineffectual. This made the coup possible in the first place, and future coups can be avoided only if Turkey develops strong, accountable democratic institutions.
But instead, under Erdogan’s personal rule, Turkey’s destabilisation is likely to continue. Thus, European leaders now need to see what has been obvious for some time: rather than an ally with which to handle regional problems, Turkey will itself increasingly be the problem.Svante Cornell Democracy Foreign Policy Islam Security
A botched coup and Turkey’s descent into madness
19 Jul 2016
In the post-Soviet space as well as the Middle East, Western leaders have largely failed to heed ample evidence that the goals of the Russian leadership are fundamentally opposed to those of the EU and the US. Whereas Moscow seeks to counter Western influence and roll back the US’s role in the world, the West has proposed a win–win approach, seeking to convince Moscow that its ‘true’ interests should lead it to cooperate with the West.
When this has not worked, Western leaders have ‘compartmentalised’, isolating areas of agreement from areas of disagreement. This approach has come to the end of the road because the assumptions that undergird it are false. So long as Western powers fail to understand the fundamental incompatibility of their interests with the deeply anti-Western interests of the current power brokers in the Kremlin, they are unlikely to develop policies that achieve success.
Read the full articlein the June 2016 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.Svante Cornell EU-Russia Foreign Policy Middle East Security
The fallacy of ‘compartmentalisation’: the West and Russia from Ukraine to Syria
25 May 2016
In Asia the rise of both China and India is becoming a reality. Their growth is of an unprecedented scale. While the US continues to be the only superpower, it needs the help of like-minded countries to deal with international challenges. Beyond 2030, the G3—the US, China and India as the pillars of a tri-polar world—may become a reality.
In order to cope with changes of this magnitude, increased cooperation between the US, Europe and democracies in Asia is essential. To be successful in adopting this new strategic landscape, it is necessary to strengthen the ties between Europe and democracies in Asia. In this regard, rule-making is the key area for success.
Japan is contributing to these efforts by applying a comprehensive engagement policy towards China while strengthening its alliance with the US. Establishing strategic ties with India is also important. Japan and Europe can do much to help achieve stability. After all, Japan needs a strong and engaging Europe, just as Europe needs a strong and active Japan.
Read the full articlein the June 2016 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.Masafumi Ishii Foreign Policy Globalisation Security
Regional security in Asia: Japan’s strategy for stability and the role of Europe
03 May 2016
Calls for the permanent deployment of substantial combat forces in Eastern European NATO states, primarily in the Baltics and Poland, have been part of the debates on strategy among the member states for years. In the wake of the Ukrainian crisis, the defence capabilities of the Eastern European allies must undoubtedly be strengthened.
However, in light of the yet-to-be-implemented measures that the allies decided upon at the Wales Summit, a more general shift of international security challenges towards ‘hybrid’ warfare scenarios, Russia’s centrality in the Middle East peace process and the long-term viability of the Alliance, permanently deploying substantial combat forces in Eastern Europe would not strengthen the security of Europe and the coherence of NATO.
Read the full articlein the June 2016 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.Roderich Kiesewetter Ingmar Zielke Defence EU-Russia Foreign Policy Security
Permanent NATO deployment is not the answer to European security
03 May 2016
Seven consecutive enlargements, spanning over half a century, have provided geopolitical stability in Europe and facilitated trade and economic growth. Currently, the EU is considering further expansion towards the Western Balkans and Turkey. In this process, the EU is weighing fundamental values against security concerns, public scepticism in some member states and past experience of letting in countries that were not prepared.
In addition the economic, security and refugee crises are making the EU more cautious about enlarging further. The present paper considers options for further EU enlargement, including ending enlargement altogether, offering a reduced membership status (‘membership minus’) and keeping enlargement alive under strict conditions.
It argues for the third option, under which the EU institutions must make sure that candidate countries not only align their legislation with that of the community but also respect fundamental EU values in the economic, political and legal spheres. Giving a viable prospect for membership is vital to enabling the candidates to maintain reform momentum and their attachment to the West. It is also in the interests of the EU and its member states.Balkans Enlargment Foreign Policy
The Long March Towards the EU: Candidates, Neighbours and the Prospects for Enlargement
19 Apr 2016
The security threats Europe is now facing, such as hybrid warfare, propaganda campaigns and information warfare, frequently include a digital dimension. At the same time, digital tools offer an immense potential for change in the European neighbourhood, not least in their ability to equip and inspire pro-democracy protesters, particularly those facing a repressive security apparatus.
Digital policy cannot therefore become an afterthought but needs to be deeply integrated into Europe’s foreign policy and diplomatic efforts. Furthermore, the US’s long-held Internet hegemony is beginning to fade, placing the EU in a good position to lead global Internet governance initiatives and ensure that they develop along open and liberal lines.
Read the full articlein the June 2016 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.Łukasz Antoni Król Foreign Policy Internet Neighbourhood Policy Security Technology
Łukasz Antoni Król
Digital foreign policy: how digital tools can further Europe’s foreign policy goals
12 Apr 2016
What have we learned and what are the implications for Putin and for relations between Russia and the West from the ‘Panama Papers’ scandal? Here’s what we know so far.
Substantial evidence of Putin’s involvement
The owner of two Russia-linked offshore companies with an alleged turnover around $2 billion, cellist Sergey Roldugin, has no record of major involvement in business and nothing in Roldugin’s experience or career suggests that he is worth this much. In a 2014 interview with The New York Times , he said ‘I’m not a businessman, I don’t have millions’, a claim which is supported by the lack of evidence of meaningful business activity on his behalf.
Is there any reason major Russian businesses would pay billions through highly controversial deals to a cellist with no practical business experience and no value as a business partner?
Oh, wait, let’s not forget one important thing: the cellist is the closest personal friend of the Russian President. The money transfer schemes involved are mostly obscene in terms of full lack of commercial sense: unreasonably huge penalties for wittingly breached deals, generous buy-offs of publicly traded shares just days after they were sold to Roldugin’s firms at but a fraction of the future buy-off price, etc. All these deals will be subject to thorough money-laundering investigation because this is what bribes normally look like in the modern world.
What implications for Russia?
Most commentators agree that the publication of the ‘Panama Papers’ will have little public effect on the Russian society. There are a number of reasons for this: Russia’s state media almost completely silenced the revelation about the papers, Russians are used to it and, to a large extent, tolerate large-scale corruption. Some people would buy arguments that ‘it’s the Western plot to discredit Putin’ and that ‘Putin’s personal signature is not in the register = no proof’.
However, among the Russian elites, this publication will undoubtedly have a great psychological effect. Alongside Roldugin, many Russian officials and businessmen have been exposed in the papers as owners of offshore companies. And many of them have already had too much to deal with in previous years – Western sanctions, the international credit blockade, difficulties moving money back and forth across the borders, dealing with Western authorities and financial institutions. They thought that Putin’s system would offer them protection once they’ve been loyal to the Czar—but now it seems that the Czar is mostly busy covering his own deals, and the protection has vanished. On top of this, the additional sanctions and growing difficulty in cross-border business as a result of the Czar’s policies likely make them question if it is worth it supporting Putin and his system any longer?
I do not believe that an ‘elite revolt’ against Putin will occur in Russia any time soon—Putin has effectively managed to suppress the quality of the Russian elites, expel the most outstanding persons from power, and breed only loyal depoliticised technocrats around him, who are also under 24/7 surveillance by the security services. But the ‘Panama Papers’ are an important milestone in creating a situation where, there will be few who would stand to defend him, as, unlike previous years, a lot of influential people have had enough.
As for Russia’s relations with the West, clearly the issue of the alleged link between President Putin and the Panama offshore money will be investigated much more in-depth. There is enough evidence that a link possibly exists, so it is not enough to rely just on independent investigative journalists—it is time for governments to step in if they are serious in their rhetoric about combating corruption and money laundering.Vladimir Milov Economy EU-Russia Foreign Policy
The Panama Papers and the Russian Connection
11 Apr 2016
These are unsettling times for the US and Europe. On the transatlantic periphery, the Islamic State (IS) is destabilising Syria and Iraq, Russia is fighting a ‘Cold Peace’ with Ukraine, and NATO’s eastern flank looks wobbly and exposed. All the while, Russian forces are projecting power into the Middle East and an increasingly assertive Chinese navy is probing the waters of North America and the Mediterranean (Bugajski2004; Lucas 2015; Sciutto 2015; Holmes 2015).
If the frontiers look troubled, the home fronts are not especially calm either. On both sides of the Atlantic, democratic polities are grappling with the plight of refugees and undocumented immigrants, the perils of bloated deficits, and the shock of sporadic, politically motivated violence. If there was ever a time to forge a confident, transatlantic response to shared policy dilemmas, this is the ideal moment. Yet out on the US presidential campaign trail, iron-clad solidarity with Europe is not universal.
American foreign policy is fast approaching a decision point. Will the US turn inward or outward during the next presidential administration; will President Barack Obama’s successor muster the financial resources to deter rising competitors and restore tranquillity to the global commons; and what, if anything, are Europeans to make of the unusually large crop of 2016 presidential hopefuls? The answers that each campaign offers to these questions provide insight into the next phase of the transatlantic relationship. Unfortunately, some of the answers currently set forth are troubling.
Read the full FREE article published in the December 2015 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.Peter Doran EU-US Foreign Policy Transatlantic
America’s new direction in foreign policy
23 Dec 2015
What we are going through now … will change our country. – Angela Merkel
We don’t want to change! – Viktor Orban
Just like previous crises, the one about the refugees has highlighted a deep split among member states of the European Union. The Euro crisis seemed to divide the Union into North and South. This one goes East-West. It could actually become the most destructive split we have seen since the Union enlarged to 25 in 2004. Mind you, it is an East-West rift only on the government level. The electoral successes of national populists such as Front National show that the picture is more complex. So does the fact that in Central Europe, parts of civil society valiantly fight back against their governments’ tendencies. And yet, the conflict is now largely perceived as East vs. West, new vs. old member states.
Why is this so significant? Because the Big Bang enlargement of 2004, and the two smaller ones 2007 and 2013, by taking in mostly former Iron Curtain countries, were the embodiment of a Europe Whole and Free. After the plus jamais la guerre entre nous (the prevention of war as the initial rationale for integration) of the 1950s, the year 1989 added a second grand narrative to European integration: The irreversible end of Europe’s postwar partition, and its firm anchoring in the West. This went along with the recognition that the essence of the West, and the optimal pattern for successful societies, were liberal democracy and the market economy – i.e. political and economic freedom, and their mutual dependence. This narrative of 1989 is now in jeopardy.
That is because the rift is not only about refugees and immigration. It is ultimately about the question of how we define Europe in the 21st century: Who do we want to be in 20 years? Will we be globalised, multi-ethnic and multi-religious, or closed, white and Christian? Are we defined more by (maybe all too dark) fears, or by (possibly too starry-eyed) hopes? And on that backdrop, a pattern is emerging in which the two sides also disagree about European integration, social norms, and the question of the type of democracy we should live in. None of these conflicts is really new, but thanks to the spat over refugees they have consolidated into a broad disagreement.
On Europe, one side advocates moving towards stronger competences for EU institutions (Parliament, Council, Commission) where it matters: bigger on the big things, smaller on the small things. Opposing this is a movement to rather re-nationalise central EU competences, or at least not allow any further transfer of powers to ‘Brussels’. On norms, we have, most prominently, the remarkable changes on LGBT rights in many member states – which are resisted by those who define them as West European moral imperialism. On democracy, we see a sharp division emerging between the proponents of liberal democracy, i.e. free elections plus checks and balances, independent media and strong civil society – and on the other hand, those of an ‘illiberal state’ where the majority rules but institutional limits to its power are considered as only helping the rich, the liberal elites or the political Left. The governments of Hungary and Poland are excellent examples of the latter tendency.
Like all meaningful political conflict, this here is ultimately about reality and about time. It is about who has their feet firmly on the ground of facts, and who lives in Lalaland. And it is about who is stuck in the past, and who owns the future. Consequently, Central Europe’s ultraconservatives and Western Europe’s national populists are regularly accused of living in a 19th or early 20th century mindset, and in denial of global facts, demographic necessities etc. Whereas West European governments and liberal elites in Central Europe are seen as stuck in the hippie dreams of the late 20th century, and in denial of the dangers of ‘anything goes’, the coming ‘migration of peoples’ and the decline of the West. So the rift is deep indeed.
But if such sizeable parts of governments, elites and public opinion cannot agree on a common narrative for Europe anymore, hence, if the narrative of 1989 is no longer valid, then Europe is in deep trouble. So how can we make a revamped European narrative majoritarian again? This will be a major task for the upcoming years. And I see it going to the Centre Right in a very broad definition – Liberals, Christian Democrats and moderate conservatives.
It must contain the universality of Human Rights and our commitment to human dignity – this is not negotiable. But regaining control of our borders is equally legitimate and in itself not to be confused with xenophobia. And: Europe will not be able to absorb all the suffering of the world. Liberal democracy is a form of government and not to be confused with liberal policies, and checks and balances are in no way negotiable. On European integration, subsidiarity should become the ruling principle: that includes referring some competences to national or regional levels, but increasing EU-level integration in defence, security and immigration policies, for example, because there is simply no progress on these topics for individual countries. Economic success will be key to regaining political majorities and weakening the extremes. And that means opening up, not closing ourselves in. It means fiscal consolidation (this is where the Left is useless) and constant modernisation. In immigration policy, we need to face up to the fact that we need immigration but we have to be in a better position to decide who actually joins us, and we have to become much more self-confident about the values that immigrants must accept if they want to be successful. What counts in 20 years is not how white or how Christian we’ll be but whether we’ll still be an open society. Much to learn here from North America and other immigration societies around the globe. Last but not least, a renewed commitment to the West as a globally attractive model, is necessary as well as possible.
All this is just a sketchy outline of what is needed. But what may well be the most important element in the new rift on what Europe is really all about, has to do with language and communication. Both sides, at least among governments and ruling political parties, must calm down and return to a more rational dialogue. No one in Europe should accuse someone else of belonging to a different century or living outside of reality. If we could achieve that in the upcoming months, it would be a good start.
[This text was written for the SAC Château Béla Central European Strategic Forum 2015]Roland Freudenstein European Union Foreign Policy Migration
A Clash of Cultures ? Refugees and the new East-West divide in the EU
17 Dec 2015
After four years of war, Syria threatens the balance of its neighbours and the security of the entire Mediterranean basin. Europe’s interests are directly at stake in a conflict where it did not have the appropriate tools to react with at first: long procedures, a lack of cohesion between EU institutions, an absence of military culture in a country that shows no sign of appeasement and the inability of EU Member States to define a joint stand in the Middle East are fair criticism of Brussels’ performance.
And yet, more than four billion euros were spent to heal wounds and help suffering communities while EU diplomats try to bring all sides to the negotiating table. With regional powers such as Russia, Iran, Turkey or Saudi Arabia playing on opposite sides, it appears that no factions can reach a decisive victory on the ground, as Bashar Assad, the Islamic State and the Syrian opposition are holding on against each other. Europe learned from the conflict’s dynamics and adapted its own foreign instruments to this violent context, notably in support of partners and civil society groups.Foreign Policy Middle East Security
Innocence and War: Searching for Europe’s Strategy in Syria
15 Dec 2015
In a recent interview on the television show 60 Minutes, US President Barack Obama was questioned about the challenge that Russia’s move into Syria represented to his leadership. Obama brushed off the question, saying Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin was acting out of weakness and that the need to prop up President Assad was a sign that the Syrian dictator was losing his grip.
More strikingly, the president added: ‘if you think that running your economy into the ground [referring to the Russian economy] and having to send troops in order to prop up your only ally is leadership, then we’ve got a different definition of leadership. My definition of leadership would be leading on climate change, an international accord that potentially we’ll get in Paris’ (60 Minutes 2015). This sense of priority might have surprised the audience, especially given the context of the ongoing Syrian tragedy.
More than six years into office, observers are still at pains to define Obama’s foreign policy vision, the philosophy guiding his actions on the international stage. Is the president mostly motivated by domestic aims? To what extent can his foreign policy be defined by a doctrine, and how does it fit into American traditions? Despite the hope created by Obama’s election in 2008, European policymakers have often found the US president disengaged, even aloof.
Early decisions such as the ‘reset’ with Russia, the decision to scrap the missile defence sites in Poland and the Czech Republic, or the long and largely unilateral Afghanistan review have fuelled this narrative. Understanding the president’s vision thus matters greatly to Europeans and transatlantic relations, not only as a way to engage Washington in Obama’s last year in office, but to gauge the potential for change and continuity after the end of his second term.
Henry Kissinger, in Diplomacy, describes US foreign policy as oscillating between the traditions of its first two internationalist presidents, Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, between a belief in the need to defend US national interests and balance power politics, and an almost messianic self-proclaimed mission to promote liberal democracy (Kissinger 1994). Where does Obama fit into this? He has alternately been called an ‘idealist’ (French 2014) and a ‘realist’ (Kaplan 2014). Some claim that he himself does not know and that it is more than time to choose (Drezner 2013).
The concentrated and opaque nature of decision-making at the White House makes it difficult to deduce the foreign policy vision of a president from the views of his main cabinet members. While the G.W. Bush administration (especially in the first term) was famous for its turf battles between strong personalities such as Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleeza Rice, Dick Cheney and Colin Powell (Mann 2004), Obama seems firmly in charge of foreign policy, relying on a close-knit group of advisers.
In the case of the conflict in Ukraine, for example, while Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and Secretary of State John Kerry both signalled their support for the delivery of weaponry to Kyiv to sustain the Russian invasion, the president decided against this course of action, firmly set against any risk of escalation with Moscow.
As a recent Politico article noted: ‘Obama’s West Wing inner circle serves as a brick wall against dissenting views. The president’s most senior advisers—including National Security Adviser Susan Rice and White House chief of staff Denis McDonough—reflect the president’s wariness of escalated U.S. action related to Syria or Russia and, officials fear, fail to push Obama to question his own deeply rooted assumptions’ (Crowley 2015). While Samantha Power, the US ambassador to the UN, is known for her work on the prevention of genocide and mass atrocities (encapsulated in her book A Problem from Hell), it is unlikely she has much say over decision-making today.
Read the full FREE article published in the December 2015 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.Benjamin Haddad Foreign Policy Leadership Transatlantic
Is there an Obama doctrine?
14 Dec 2015
In these turbulent times, we very much need allies, partners and friends we can rely on and work with. Our partnerships have to be based on trust and a vision, but also on concrete cooperation—political, economic, military and cultural. The US and Europe have been natural partners from the start. Over time they have created a common space where the values of human dignity, freedom and responsibility, and solidarity are paramount. These values are now being threatened by independent groups of violent extremists, who are spreading terror worldwide, and by non-democratic regimes that are challenging our liberal-democratic order.
The US and Europe need to continue to stand their ground and be strong together. We have to defend what we believe in and assist others who cannot defend themselves. As prime minister of Slovakia, I have personally experienced the success of transatlantic cooperation. The vision of transatlantic unity between the US and Western Europe has brought democracy and a sustainable economy to Central and Eastern Europe.
The region has come a long way, but we can never sit still. I see unnerving developments in some of the neighbouring countries, and it reminds me that we need to continually reach higher: to keep liberal democracy as the basis of our societies, where non-governmental organisations and political parties can freely develop and play active roles.
Still recovering from the economic crisis, Europe and the US need to push harder to get back to the standard of living they enjoyed before 2008. There can be no doubt that our common economic agenda is driven by the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). Not only will TTIP bring us more jobs and economic growth, but it will also enable us to set high standards for products. And if it includes an investor–state dispute settlement clause, then—despite what the treaty’s opponents would have us believe—TTIP will strengthen the rule of law.
This is because it will protect both states and companies by providing for the minimum standard of treatment required under international law. Therefore, it is rather unsettling that TTIP is facing so much hostility. As partners, the US and Europe need to proceed in the conviction that what we are doing will benefit both parties to the negotiations. It is important that our citizens should also be convinced of this. A strong communication strategy should be put in place to make TTIP opponents see the flaws in their reasoning.
The US and the EU have sometimes approached foreign policy very differently, but their aim has always been the same: to secure a free and safe world. We need to determine how we can best cooperate with rising powers such as Russia, China and Iran. But if necessary, we must endeavour to compel them to respect human dignity and democracy. The West’s foreign policy goals have sometimes been frustrated by its energy needs.
The US’s energy revolution and the EU’s policy of energy diversification may ease this tension a little. However, our growing energy independence cannot become a reason to retreat from the responsibilities we have regarding the citizens of countries that are rich in energy but lacking in freedom.
This issue of the European View addresses the urgent problems outlined above. As we consider the transatlantic relationship, we should bear the following in mind: what challenges lie ahead, what can we learn from each other and what is the way forward?
The transatlantic partnership is strong. We are partners with the same goal on the horizon: a whole and free world.This editorial was originally published in the December 2015 issue of the European View, Martens Centre’s policy journal.Mikuláš Dzurinda EU-US Foreign Policy Leadership Transatlantic
Revitalising transatlantic relations
08 Dec 2015
In late July EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini went to Tehran. The visit was meant to show that the Islamic Republic was now on its way to mending fences with the EU and that a new, more peaceful chapter was to begin between Iran and its adversaries after the nuclear deal.
The pictures from Mogherini’s meeting with the Iranian Foreign Secretary show a beaming Zarif and a veiled Mogherini. It is a picture that makes it abundantly clear that the nuclear deal, now also signed by the US Congress, is an all-out win for the Iranian regime. Iran has got everything that it wanted, and then some.
The image also depicts the complete capitulation of the EU. By pandering to the very conservative interpretation of Islam that the Iranian regime follows, Mogherini, knowingly or not, sent out a message—easily understood in the region—that the EU had succumbed to Iran without question. No wonder Zarif is beaming happily.
Read the full FREE article published in the December 2015 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.Magnus Norell Defence Foreign Policy Middle East
A really bad deal: the Iran nuclear deal and its implications
30 Nov 2015
If Greeks themselves do not trust their own government and their own banks with their money, it is difficult to expect the taxpayers of other countries to do so. Yet that is what the critics of the severity of the conditions imposed for the third Greek bailout seem to expect.
The euro was not imposed on Greece. It was something that Greece joined of its own accord. The fact that the possibility of Greece leaving the euro was raised by Germany, has been greeted by some as dealing a blow to the euro, because it supposedly ended the notion of the euro being “irreversible”. But nothing in political life is irreversible, even though some things, like the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires, did last a very long time indeed. “Irreversibility” was always a legal fiction, and fiction is not a sound basis for an economic policy.
The euro is a contingent compromise, where members trade some short term losses for greater long term gains. A euro, where rules were easily broken, would not endure. I agree with those who say that, eventually, some of the Greek debt will have to written off. That is both financially necessary and morally just. But that can only be contemplated when the Greek political and administrative system has reformed itself, and is capable of benefitting from a write off, and not looking at it as a precedent for a further write offs later on. We are not there yet.
The crucial difficulty seems to be that the Greek state does not work. The fact that Tsipras’ offer of reforms had to be crafted, not by Greek civil servants on their own, but with the help of French officials, tells its own story.
Some complain that elements of the package involve intrusion on Greek “sovereignty”. But a state is only sovereign to the extent that it is capable of fulfilling the internal and international responsibilities of a state. I believe Greece needs help in this regard, and it would be good if the World Bank, as well as the IMF, were involved in helping Greece reform its public administration.
Recapitalising the Greek banks will be a major task. Interestingly the biggest national exposure to the Greek banks is by banks in the UK. The UK is not in the euro, and is not contributing to the Greek bailout, which could be regarded as unfair.
Some argue that the austerity, that Greece is going through to meet its international obligations, is damaging its economic growth prospects. In the short run, this is true. But fuelling temporary growth, by taking on even MORE debts, would not be an answer. That would weaken longer term growth prospects, because of the additional debt service it would entail. This is the problem. The opponents of austerity never explain where the extra money would come from, other than from inflation and devaluation, and they solve nothing.
The important way of improving growth prospects is by generating confidence. If people believe the future will be better, and can borrow money to invest in it, the economy will grow. With renewed confidence, some of the money that Greeks themselves have moved abroad will then come back to Greece. If the bailout terms are fully and quickly implemented, by both Greece and its creditors, that will restore confidence, especially if it is rewarded by a prospect of some conditional and staged debt write offs in the future.
Meanwhile, Greece is in close proximity to the biggest refugee crisis in world history, caused by the Syrian and Iraqi civil wars. More migrants are now arriving in Greece from the Middle East, than are arriving in Italy from North Africa. 65% of the arrivals in Greece are Syrian. Greece’s neighbour, Turkey, is already providing shelter at its own expense for 1.8 million Syrian refugees. Meanwhile most Western countries are reluctant to take in any refugees. Greece, because of its geographic position, does not have that luxury.
The European Union should reorientate its Development Aid programmes to help middle income countries, like Greece, Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, which are facing major refugee inflows, to cope with that huge burden. Some EU countries, like Germany and Sweden, are hosting many refugees. But most are keeping their heads down and doing little or nothing.
There should be burden sharing, based on relative income and population. Countries that are receiving the largest proportionate number of refugees should be getting direct ongoing cash help from those that are receiving the least.John Bruton Crisis EU Member States Foreign Policy Human Rights Migration
Greece and the refugee crisis
14 Jul 2015
On June 18th, the Ukrainian Parliament had the chance to decide on possible reforms of the legislation for local elections, which will be held next October. This strategic decision aims at strengthening decentralisation by introducing new election procedures and optimisation of local councils. As a result, the draft law has been accepted in the first reading, which parliament may then alter or amend. In doing so, however, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine has compromised its chance to implement a comprehensive, open, and inclusive reform of the law on local election.
According to the current law, half of the municipal rayon (district) and oblast (province) councils are elected by the proportional system, and the second half is decided in single-member constituencies. This system has continuously proven to be a breeding ground for the misuse of administrative resources[i], corruption and numerous manipulations. If you include elected representatives of all levels it totals 240, 000 people.
Mayors of large cities are currently elected by a ‘first past the post’ system allowing the use of political technologies like spreading votes among many candidates. An excellent example of this was the Kyiv election of 2006 when Leonid Chernovetskyi – famous for his singing, buying votes and corruption – was elected mayor: there were two centrist candidates fighting for the same electorate and each received 20-25% of the vote. But the winner was a third candidate, representing a populist party, who received 30% of the vote.
The coalition agreement of the majority in the Ukrainian Parliament, signed by five parties, contained electoral reform in the first half of 2015. It proposed the following:
The purely proportional method will apply in parliamentary and local elections, where votes will be cast for individual candidates and not political parties (this may mean that constituency lists will have to be introduced and constituencies will have to be redrawn). The majority system will only be maintained in the case of elections to village and city district councils. Mayors of big cities will be elected by an absolute majority.
Ukrainian parliamentarians had to choose between four proposals:
Proposal #1 – Initiated by Yulia Tymoshenko and the Batkivshchyna party, but the proposal was withdrawn on the voting day.
Proposal #2 – Drafted by Mykola Fedoruk from Popular Front.
Proposal #3 – Introduced by Cross-factional group of deputies and experts of Reanimation Package of Reforms[ii].
Proposal #4 – Proposed two hours before the deadline by some deputies from Liashko Radical Party and Petro Poroshenko Block.
During the ranking voting the fourth proposal got the most support and was adopted in the first reading. According to the proposal, mayors of cities with more than 90, 000 inhabitants are elected with an absolute majority which means elections with two rounds for such communities. Another positive achievement is optimisation of total number of elective representatives in local communities.
On the other hand it is not fully complying with the Coalition Agreement, in the way that it does not formalise a holding of local elections under a proportional voting system, and forbids self-nomination at some levels. In some way it creates quasi-majoritarian election system where parties assign candidates to districts. New system reintroduces bloc system, which is a step back according to experts of Reanimation package of reforms. Another negative change is the threshold of 5% for parties and 7% for blocs, which makes it almost impossible for new parties to rise. The authors call their proposal ‘an open-list proportional voting system’ – either by mistake or in order to manipulate public opinion. The results of election held under this system might discredit the election system, and the open-list proportional voting system, as well as the entire institute of local election.
The experts have already replied to this legislative initiative. They call for the inclusion of the following regulations into the draft law which is being finalized:
– to ban or strictly limit paid-for political advertising on radio and television, as well as outdoor political advertising;
– to create conditions for due participation of the internally displaced persons in the election;
– to make financing of election campaigns more transparent by publishing full financial reports both before and after election;
– to introduce effective mechanisms securing balanced representation of both women and men in the elective agencies;
The voted draft eliminates the existing parallel system for local council elections, which has been widely blamed for recurring irregularities in local elections and for a lack of representativeness in local councils. At the same time the law fails to introduce effective mechanisms to secure proper representation of women in the local councils, to make the funding of the election campaign more transparent, and to cut down the expenses of the parties and candidates for the election propaganda. The draft law includes no regulations to guarantee that internally displaced persons will have a possibility to vote at the election.
In any case, a significant effort will be needed to ensure voters understand how the new system works and how to fill out the ballot papers. Extensive training of election commissioners and observers will also be needed to ensure smooth implementation of the new system. Moreover, these changes will help to discipline voters to be more responsible in local elections, because they are not taken seriously when compared to the general election. The understanding of this responsibility by local communities for those whom they are electing is a precondition for decentralisation. If Kyiv made this step towards the strengthening of local self-government, it will support the ranks of Poroshenko and Yatseniuk and their parties which were depleted after the elections in November. Thus, the adoption of this proposal with the amendments mentioned above would be the best possible, but certainly not the best imaginable, result.
[i] The misuse of administrative resources is forcing state employees to vote for the ‘right’ candidate, using local budgets for election campaign etc.
[ii] The Reanimation Package of Reforms is an initiative of public activists, experts, and journalists who have teamed up to facilitate the implementation of reforms in the country.Viktor Artemenko Democracy Eastern Europe EU-Russia Foreign Policy
The battle for local democracy in Ukraine
30 Jun 2015
It is not easy to come to terms with the reality that Europe is once again facing an adversary at its borders. Making a shift in Europe’s policy towards Russia would be painful, with too many interests involved and too many years of demanding diplomatic work going to waste. However, the sooner Europe reconciles itself to the reality that Russia has been engaged in an undeclared war against the liberal values underpinning the peace and prosperity of Europe, the sooner it can find the right policy response.
Information warfare is an integral part of Putin’s assault on Europe. The scale and intensity of Russia’s information warfare capability has fully come to light in the country’s aggression against Ukraine. But, as this paper argues, these capabilities have been cultivated over many years and constitute an integral part of Russia’s new strategy for ‘hybrid’ or ‘non-linear’ warfare. This strategy uses military, criminal, intelligence, business, diplomatic, media, cyber and political techniques to achieve Russia’s goals.
This paper analyses the main elements of Russia’s vast, well-integrated and well-organised information warfare capabilities. It also deciphers the main messages of Russia’s propaganda machine in the West, concentrating on Russia’s efforts to undermine faith in liberal values and legitimise its claim to former constituent parts of the USSR. The paper examines how Russia is using its allies in European business and political circles to spread its message. It also provides recommendations for policymakers and nongovernmental actors, with a view to countering Russia’s propaganda. Europe is at war—an information war. Like any other war, this requires a defence strategy.
The West’s response to the Russian challenge should be better information, not more propaganda. Designing such a response will require developing delicately crafted policy options, constructing an appropriate institutional framework, allocating the necessary resources, and finding the right messages and messengers.Eastern Europe EU-Russia Foreign Policy
Muzzling the bear: Strategic Defence for Russia’s Undeclared Information War on Europe
16 Jun 2015
This research paper examines two modern disruptive military technologies that are being used increasingly frequently: remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) and cyber-attacks. These technologies are called disruptive because they are profoundly changing our societies and warfare. These changes also apply to Europe, so it needs to take them into account and adapt to the changes. More conventional threats have not disappeared, however, but are sometimes used alongside the new methods, as Russian aggression in Ukraine has shown. Europe is facing a hybrid threat with multiple elements that blend together and can change rapidly. However, Europe is falling behind in developing or even dealing with new technologies. Insufficient investment has been made in research and development (R&D) and, due to a decline in military technology programmes, the European defence industry is suffering. If this continues we might lose important capabilities that have already been jeopardised by defence-budget cuts in recent years, and the existence of European military technology know-how could even be endangered. Creating European projects, such as a common RPAS, and economies of scale will be necessary to support the European defence industry.Defence Foreign Policy Innovation Technology
Dawn of the Drones: Europe’s Security Response to the Cyber Age
17 Apr 2015
Upon leaving Europe for a research work with the Martens Centre, I have to admit I was mostly ruminating about the Islamic State. I came back with my thoughts focused on Iran and on how this country is now shaping events in Lebanon, the Palestinian Territories, Syria, Iraq and even Yemen, under the umbrella of a well-intentioned nuclear deal.
Iran fills a void left by the withdrawal of the Western powers from the Middle East but has enflamed the Sunni/Shia sectarian divide in the process. This is disastrous for the Middle East’s Muslims – UNHCR now counts 4 million refugees in the region. This is disastrous for minorities – Christians now represent less than 5% of the population, compared to 20% a century ago. This should be deeply worrying for Europe whose security is directly at stake.
Christian wedding in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley
The EU is served on the ground by dedicated delegations that have spent roughly €3.2 Billion since the beginning of the Syrian civil war in 2011, “the largest aid package provided so far”, according to diplomats met in Amman. Those funds are vital to tend to the basic needs of affected populations. Yet is there a long term strategy of influence behind that money? Are we thinking about ways to alleviate the crisis? Western powers do conduct airstrikes, around 2500 so far, but Iran is facing the Islamic State on the ground and its Shia affiliates expect to reap benefits few Sunnis will accept.
President Obama’s refusal to bomb Bashar Assad after he crossed the announced ‘red line’, by using chemical weapons in September 2013, was a major turning point. Western nations have lost a great deal of credibility. Some allies feel outright betrayed: Sunnis in Iraq, opposition fighters in Syria, Christians in Lebanon. Europe and the United States are losing friends because of their failure to decide on a strategy and stick to it. US Secretary of State John Kerry’s recent statement about the “necessity to speak to Assad” surprised no one when I visited Beirut: “Iranians know how to play the long game, Westerners lack the patience”, one interlocutor said.
This long game is destabilising the region further though. The question for Europe is: how long can we let the pot go on boiling? Can we cope with a generation of poor and barely educated Syrians raised in refugee camps? How do we prevent the rise of a radical Sunni movement that war and misery breed and best embodied by the Islamic State today?
The good news is that civil society in the Middle East has awoken. That is why we should not make the mistake of reducing our engagement out of political/security fears or because we feel lost in the complexity of the oriental chessboard. This Middle Eastern civil society needs our attention and every sign of indifference or cynicism we give – lately French MPs meeting Bashar Assad for instance – has lasting negative consequences.
Europe should be prepared to take political risks and increase the effectiveness of its civilian-military response. And we should continue to engage our southern partners, develop new projects with them. The tide always turns for those who dare.
Refugee camp in LebanonMichael Benhamou Democracy Foreign Policy Middle East
Engaging the Middle East: A travel diary in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon
26 Mar 2015
For the Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies, 2014 was a year of significant changes that reflect the organisation’s maturity and its established position on the European think tank scene.Democracy Economy Elections Foreign Policy Transatlantic
Activity Report 2014
19 Mar 2015
The ongoing saga of negotiations with Iran over its nuclear programme continues this month.
Sizeable elements, notably in the US, question the very basis of the negotiations while Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent speech to the US Congress declared Iran the great enemy of our time. But the European Union remains committed to finding a diplomatic solution.
Many deadlines have come and gone since negotiations began in early 2014. Many critics point to the lack of a substantive agreement after so many rounds of negotiations as evidence of failure. But whether or not a deal gets brokered over the next few weeks, the very continuation of these negotiations bears testament to the ongoing success of European diplomacy.
After the deadline last November resulted in deadlock, Catherine Ashton, former EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy stood side by side with Muhammad Javad Zarif to announce that talks between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the international interlocutors known as the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany) were to be extended for a further seven months. Though announcing no concrete result, the press conference was remarkable.
There was to be no talk of aggression, none of the militarism that marked the Ahmedinejad era of Iranian politics. Rather, we saw an affirmation the commitment of both sides to find a diplomatic resolution.
This transformation is the result of a wide array of factors: the inauguration of the Hassan Rouhani administration; the coalescence of Western and Iranian interests in opposition to the self-proclaimed ‘Islamic State’ in Iraq and Syria; and likely, the combined economic imperatives of the international sanction regime and imploding oil prices. And of course, the prioritisation of the issue by the US.
However, one, often overlooked, factor was central in keeping Iran at the negotiating table and ensuring that diplomacy did not make way to confrontation: the role of the European Union as a diplomatic power and mediator. The devoted commitment of the EU to seeking a diplomatic solution is paying dividends. Its diplomacy with Iran marks one small victory of European diplomacy in the post-Lisbon Treaty era.
When talks have stalled, some have called for an escalation of sanctions against Iran. Maybe they are right. Perhaps, negotiations with the Islamic Republic are futile. And certainly such an approach would be legitimate if the Iranian government pulled out of negotiations or even if its negotiation stance was one of obfuscation or obstruction. But this does not seem to be the case. No sources are claiming a deadlock, rather diplomacy is, far from atypically, taking longer to pay dividends than originally expected. Diplomacy with Iran is remarkable precisely because it has been so unremarkable.
In such a context, calls for escalating sanctions are, somewhat understandably, viewed by Iran as akin to asking them to negotiate under threat. Such a strategy, rather than paving the way for a solution, seems likely to only encourage the pursuit of a nuclear programme as a source of Iranian national pride.
Therefore, the resolute determination of the European Union to pursue a diplomatic solution is of immeasurable importance. Catherine Ashton, as EU lead negotiator with Iran, has never wavered from commitment to brokering a deal with Iran. While US-Iran relations still threaten to return to a conflict between “The Axis of Evil” and “The Great Satan” the EU has treated Iran as a legitimate negotiating partner and in doing so has helped ensure that they are one. The EU has emerged as a credible negotiator that Iran is willing to put its faith in and overcome its continued distrust for the West.
European policy has been instrumental in committing the Rouhani administration to negotiations. The current government in Tehran is now utterly dependent on reaching a negotiated settlement with the P5+1. If Rouhani cannot deliver an agreement with some relief from international sanctions, it seems unlikely that his administration can survive long.
Of course, Iran is unlikely to be a major ally of the West in the foreseeable future. Its confessional vision of the world order clashes fundamentally with liberal democratic conceptions of the international system. Iran’s long term support for various terrorist groups in its neighbourhood and its existential conflict with Israel further prevent any true alliance emerging.
Nonetheless, it is now increasingly apparent that a convergence of Western and Iranian interests is emerging in the Middle East, at least in the short to medium term.
While Iran has fomented regional disorder in the past, it is clear that the Rouhani administration recognises the danger of weak and/or failed states on its border. As such, the Islamic Republic has emerged as an important component of efforts to build stable state institutions in its neighbouring Iraq and Afghanistan. Iranian influence in Iraq is far from universally positive but without it, it is unlikely a coalition could have been established around Haider al-Abadi who was elected prime minister last July. Similarly, the personal intervention of Iranian foreign minister Muhammad Javad Zarif was instrumental in cobbling together a government in the fragile politics of Afghanistan.
Most pertinently, however, is the joint threat that the self-proclaimed ‘Islamic State’ poses. In a fundamentalist interpretation of Sunni Islam, IS strives to ‘re-establish’ Muhammad’s caliphate and unite the world’s Muslim population into a united state, Dar al’Islam, in conflict with the world of war (read: infidel), Dar al’harb. To this end both the infidel West and apostate Shi’ia Iran are sworn enemies but geographical proximity amplifies the threat to the Islamic Republic. Although unwilling to follow US leadership and join international efforts against IS, Iran has joined the conflict against IS with a number of military interventions in Iraq. Some Iraqi politicians have even stated their belief that Iran is more committed to the fight than the West.
As we enter 2015, the process of negotiation has been firmly established as the solution to international tensions arising from the Iranian pursuit of its nuclear programme and opportunities for strategic partnership are emerging. More importantly, a return to the confrontational politics of the Ahmedinejad era seems unlikely. True, it would likely be impossible to have arrived at this point without the efforts of the White House but similarly diplomatic progress is hard to conceive of with the Trojan efforts of the EU and Catherine Ashton in particular. The continuation of negotiations with Iran is evidence that the EU has an important role to play in international diplomacy.Eoin O’Driscoll Defence Foreign Policy Middle East Security
Devoted to diplomacy: the case of EU-Iran nuclear talks
19 Mar 2015
With the increasing terror threat in Europe, even politicians from mainstream parties are beginning to toy with the idea of reintroducing national border checks inside the Schengen Area. This area consists of 26 European countries that have agreed to abolish internal border controls. ‘Schengen’ includes the so-called ‘compensatory measures’ that take into account the interests of the signatory governments and incorporate the Schengen Information System, better judicial cooperation, a common visa policy and controls at the external borders.
Unfortunately, responding to the terror attacks in Paris in January 2015, certain politicians have called for national borders being gradually reintroduced. In some cases, policy proposals may just be using sloppy language; in other cases there is an intention to go back to the old days.
For example, there has been talk of ‘strengthening of border security with targeted controls’. Under the current Schengen regime, national authorities are allowed to conduct routine police checks on their territory but are not allowed to undertake border controls, except for strictly limited periods of time. Executing police authority inside a member state is a country’s duty. Imposing ‘targeted controls’ could mean a return to border checks, a highly questionable move.
There has also been talk about introducing ‘internal border checks’. The existing Schengen Border Code states that ‘internal borders may be crossed at any point without a border check on persons being carried out.’ Schengen rules are exactly about that, about NOT requesting travellers’ documentation on the internal borders. ‘Internal border checks’ would thus abolish the main pillar of Schengen. The complex architecture of Schengen rules would simply collapse – there would not be much ‘Schengen’ left.
Another phrase that has appeared is ‘an intelligent use of the ‘Schengen internal control mechanism’. The problem is that there is no such thing as a Schengen internal control mechanism.’ If this were to mean a better sharing of data within the Schengen Information System or better judicial cooperation, that would help to catch suspected terrorists. But if this were to mean internal border checks, it would be a move contrary to the letter and spirit of the Lisbon Treaty.
Schengen is not some ‘naïve’ project that has simply abolished internal borders controls. Schengen consists also of many measures which could help us in fighting terrorism. For example, police cooperation, judicial cooperation in criminal matters, control of firearms, guarding and policing the external border of the Schengen Area and a better operation of the Schengen Information System could all help in identifying and tracking suspects. All these activities can be made to operate better, without internal borders in Europe being reinstated. As a related point, including Romania and Bulgaria in the Schengen Area would help in tackling terrorism as the sophisticated internal Schengen rules would have to be applied by these countries.
So rather than introducing new legislation, let us make better use of our existing rules and let us invite Romania and Bulgarian to join Schengen. That way we would do a better job in preventing further deaths in Europe. And if we come to a conclusion that the Schengen Border Code needs to be amended, preserving the legality of controls will be extremely important.
It has been said many times before but it is worth repeating: Islamic jihad and other forms of terrorism have succeeded when they have made us curtail our rights and liberties. Let us not make the terrorists’ ‘job’ any easier.
(with thanks to an anonymous reviewer)Vít Novotný European Union Extremism Foreign Policy Immigration
Europe’s Passport-Free Zone Needs to Remain Free
25 Feb 2015
“Mantra” (Sanskrit मंत्र) means a sacred utterance… or group of words believed by some to have psychological and spiritual power. – Wikipedia
As 2014 is drawing to a close, let’s take a look at how the West has debated its reaction to Russia’s aggression in Ukraine. With all the controversy, there is nevertheless a number of statements that more or less everybody can agree on, at least in Europe. I call them the four mantras of the Ukraine debate. I don’t claim they are false or mistaken. But the way they are formulated, none of them stands closer scrutiny, because they all are more or less massively beside the point.
1. ‘The West has made mistakes, too’:
Actually, the statement as such is what Americans call a no-brainer. Who doesn’t ever make mistakes? The question is: which were the mistakes? And here we get some interesting disagreement. One school claims that the West was too triumphant after the end of the Cold War, expanded NATO ignoring Russia’s fears, and crossed another Russian red line with its attempt to drag Ukraine into the West (thereby also forcing an unwanted choice upon the poor Ukrainians: Russia or us). This argument, or at least parts of it, has been made by many – probably in its most coherent form by the neo-realist U.S. pundit John Mearsheimer.
The other school is best represented by the American journalist Anne Applebaum: If anything, the West has nurtured the illusion of a cooperative Russia modernising along Western lines for much too long. Even when those who know better (i.e. the Poles, the Balts and a few others) had warned their Western partners that it was an illusion. As Estonian President Toomas Ilves likes to say: Georgia in 2008 was the wake-up call but we’ve been hitting the snooze button ever since. From France’s sale of the Mistral assault ships to our slow reaction to Russia’s blatant attack on Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in February 2014: It was our mistake not to challenge Russia much earlier and more decisively. We might actually have saved Ukraine, ourselves and the whole of Europe a lot of trouble.
2. ‘We need to keep the channels for dialogue open’:
Sure, talking always feels good. Some say that ‘as long as people talk, they don’t shoot!’ – Nice. The problem with this conventional wisdom of Western diplomacy is that by the time it is uttered, the shooting usually has been going on for some time – just not by NATO, the U.S. or the respective coalition of the willing. Because to talk it takes two, but to shoot it only takes one who has at least a Kalashnikov and the determination to use it. And as we have seen, the shooting in the Donbas can very well go on while the talking is being solemnly carried out in Geneva, Vienna, Paris or Minsk.
It all boils down to the street thug techniques that Vladimir Putin learned as a teenager in the backyards of Leningrad, in what he still proudly calls his ‘street university’(look it up in Masha Gessen’s book). A good khuligan (=hooligan) first punches you in the nose, and then leaves you a choice: you can be unreasonable and escalate the situation, or you can be reasonable and work out a mutual compromise: You give him your wallet, and he will even smile at you again.
So where does this leave us? Communication is good, but only if it serves a purpose and if it doesn’t keep us from calling a spade a spade, and from doing what needs to be done, such as broad-based economic sanctions. The West needs to have a position that is based on our core values, and back up this position with hard power, otherwise it’s pointless.
3. ‘There is no military solution’:
This one is really popular. From UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon to Chancellor Angela Merkel, even to Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, everyone agrees on this one. Again, there is nothing wrong with the sentence as such. Of course wars never solve anything. They never sort anything out (except for slavery in the US, the holocaust and a few dictators, as P.J. O’Rourke likes to point out). The trouble with Russia’s new cold war is that there is no quick solution to it, period. Ed Lucas from the Economist has pointed that out brilliantly. As long as Putin wants it to drag on, it will continue, no matter what he signed. The fate of the Minsk agreement should have demonstrated that. What amazes me is that anyone in their right mind and not on the Kremlin’s payroll still believes that Mr Putin’s public statements, assurances in interviews, or even signatures, have any true meaning whatsoever.
Now, instead of uttering banalities such as ‘There is no military solution’, the much more interesting question is: Can there be an improvement in the situation as long as Ukraine is militarily as hopelessly inferior to Russia as it is at the moment? As for me, the answer is a clear no. Ukraine, after a democratic revolution, has been wrongfully attacked by its neighbor who is now bullying the whole neighbourhood. To take Western military intervention off the table from the very beginning, was tactically questionable but may have been necessary to calm down public opinion in Europe and America. But that does not mean that the West, or at least individual countries, shouldn’t help Ukraine to at least partly redress the imbalance militarily. That goes from training to the delivery of non-lethal equipment to modern small arms and anti-tank and air defence weapons.
The simple truth is that sanctions may not be enough to make Russia change course. The military price tag of Russia’s aggression counts: The more of those ‘vacationing volunteers’ come home in body bags, the more precarious Putin’s image will become at home, all Novorossiya talk notwithstanding. All this does not mean stability will return if and when military options are brought back to the table. But it means that the Ukrainian government will be able to talk and act with more self-confidence. Which should be a worthwhile goal, and would spur the domestic reform effort of Ukraine.
4. ‘There is no stability against or without Russia’:
This is another beauty. As if Putin’s Russia was interested in stability as we define it – or at least most of us do. Frankly speaking, I have no idea how people can consider a Europe with buffer zones and spheres of influence a stable place. I thought we’ve been through that for a few centuries. I cannot see why we should even endorse the idea that some countries which have the bad luck of being close to Russia, cannot freely choose their political system and alliances, and are somehow doomed to live in an authoritarian kleptocracy.
So it all depends on which Russia we’re talking about. As Mikheil Saakashvili said in 2013: We will have stability in Europe when Russia becomes a normal nation state. Because at the moment, it isn’t (and hasn’t been for a long time). Instead, at least in its self-description, Russia is an empire and empires have no borders. As long as that is the case, there will be no stability. We’d better prepare for a long conflict with Putin’s Russia. It will have political, diplomatic, psychological, economic and military aspects. It will neither be all-out war nor a repetition of the Cold War. It will even still contain elements of cooperation. But it will only be over when there is a fundamental change in Moscow.
If we really want a better future for the Ukrainians and the people in Eastern Europe (including Russians) and if we seriously aim at a Europe Whole and Free, we should go beyond the mantras. We need to shape up and win this. Otherwise, Mr Putin wins. And that would mean the end of NATO, the EU and Europe as we know it.Roland Freudenstein Democracy Eastern Europe EU-Russia European Union Foreign Policy
Ukraine beyond the mantras
15 Dec 2014
Jana Hybášková has served as the Ambassador of the European Union in Iraq for almost four years. She speaks fluent Arabic and is highly familiar with the current situation in Iraq. When speaking about the conflict with the Islamic State, she points out the influential role played by Chechnya: “We confirmed that key flows of Islamic State arms, munitions and finance comes through Chechnya.”
What type of conflict do we see in Iraq? Is it really a religious war?
Religions plays a very important role, IS is instrumentalising Sunni Salafi Islam, which has vast potential for radicalisation. They’re worse than Al-Qaeda. But it’s much more than just a religious war, enforcing a sectarian type of religion. Organised crime, including the trafficking of women and children, selling human organs and illicit oil plays a major role in the Iraqi conflict. The antiquities market is similarly important. They use the experiences of Ba’ath military command and tactics and use the Caucasus Emirate as a model for their proto-state.
Who are actually the people behind IS and who is their leader Abu-Bakr al Baghdadi?
No one here knows the proper identity of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. He definitely is not the man from the Youtube pictures from one of the Mosul mosques. We only know, from certain privileged information, that from the very beginning he created a centralised leadership nucleus together with two other prominent Ba’ath leaders. That means that the old Ba’athist party is a significant presence in the creation and the structure of the Islamic state. The Chechnyan presence is also significant. This is not widely acknowledged in Europe but we have confirmed that key flows of Islamic State arms, munitions and finance comes through Chechnya. It is well known that there were contacts between the Chechnyan Islamist Dokka Umarov’s representatives and Iraqi insurgency groups during the winter Olympic Games in Sochi.
Unfortunately, the Caucasus Emirate has served as a model for the Islamic State. So if we continue to label Islamic state as simply a terrorist group, we are missing the point and we are making a strategic mistake. We have to admit that they are state structures. It is not just a group of people who performing hit-and-run attacks, they are a group of people who put international advertisements seeking to hire top oil engineers and experts, they are a group of people who run a financial economy, who have ministries, who desperately try to provide nine millions of people with 24/7 electricity and who are able to generate quite substantial means from exporting oil. Unfortunately, Islamic state is much more than a terrorist group.
Is the Islamic State structure now strong enough to survive the elimination of its current leadership?
I think that the future is now being decided in Kobane. The Battle for Kobane is reminiscent of the Somme or Verdun. It is a place of no strategic importance but it has become a war of attrition consuming more and more Islamic State resources. The Battle for Kobane is reducing and degrading the military capacities of the Islamic State, forcing withdrawal from places such as Baiji or Zumar Zhoud, connecting Kurdistan and Sinjan, which are more significant strategically. Holding the Islamic State at Kobane is, therefore, likely more effective than airstrikes. Of course, airstrikes can be effective if used in conjunction with Iraqi security forces on the ground. At the moment Iraqi security forces require major restructuring, training and changes in command structures. All this, however, will take a considerable amount of time.
Does Islamic State, with all its brutality, have the support of the general population?
We do not have very precise information about what is happening inside of the Islamic State. The brutality there is enormous. We have learned of Pol Pot style deportations of populations, families are divided, males and females are segregated, non-Sunni men are humiliated and sent to areas out of the key urban cities while women are enslaved. On the other hand, we have very clear information about some Sunni tribes trying to resist IS. Sadly I recently received information that the Abu-Nimer tribe that resisted IS was recently executed. The same fate is likely awaiting the Barawa family which is trying to protect the strategic Haditha town. There are victims not only among Christians and Yazidis but also among the Sunnis.
There are around 1.8 million internally displaced people and refugees, around half a million people have no access to humanitarian assistance. They are in the deserts, the Kurdish mountains to the North and south of Kirkuk. In the North we have a very dramatic humanitarian crisis where we cannot reach around 200 000 Sunnis. Some Sunnis from the area around Kirkuk have now no other option than to return back to the Islamic State. This should be a serious warning for us. At the same time, as I have already said, IS is developing a state structure – it provides electricity and water to people, it runs ministries, shops and hospitals which wasn’t always the case under Maliki’s administration.
You are talking about Sunni resistance. So the fight isn’t just between the Muslims and ‘the others’?
The key enemies of the IS are the Shia, not the Christians or Yazidis. But the enemies of IS include also non-radical Sunnis. For instance the Kurds are predominantly Sunni but they are still on the other side of the barricade. IS is pushing a very strict type of Salafi Islam called the Raqqa law which bans sports; music; cigarettes; alcohol and forces women to stay at home. Many Sunnis are, on the contrary, quite liberal. But of course the position of their Sunni opposition is much better than that of Christians. The Yazidis are worst off, they are not ‘people of the Book’ and are considered worshippers of devil and therefore are targets for genocide and extermination.
Who is buying all the illicit things like oil or women?
I cannot comment on this, it is currently- being investigated by the United Nations.
How many fighters does the Islamic State control? In a vast territory of 120 000 km2 with 9 million inhabitants, they have to resist many enemies: Kurds, the Syrian army, Western armies and others. How do they manage this?
Estimates differ so much that I’m not going to say an exact number. I understand that for the Europeans the issue of foreign fighters is extremely important and highlighted but there are definitely much more foreign fighters coming from Arab and Islamic countries than from the European Union. I mean fighters from Tunisia, Libya, Morocco, and Algeria and of course Pakistan and Afghanistan but also a vast number of the Chechnyans and people from the Islamic component of the former States of Soviet Republic. The leader of the Islamic State of Chechnya Dokka Umarov offers the IS a great support.
Is IS a threat for the European Union? Do they intend to commit terrorist attacks in Europe as they say in their online magazine Dabiq?
I don’t think that at this very moment they will commit an attack in Europe. They are now concentrating on building the state, on building their internal structure and strengthening internal statehood. How this would in long-term reflect European security is of course a big question. However, European concern should be focused on the 50 million refugees and displaced in the world. More than 2.5 million refugees are in the vicinity of Europe, most of them coming from Iraq and Syria. This refugee crisis in the immediate vicinity of Europe cannot stay unnoticed. It will definitely influence Europe economically but also will have security repercussions.
What should Europe do now?
Some Member States are offering military support, but the issue is much broader. The current coalition has sixty eight states that offer a wide range of supports. However, I think we could be better organized through EU military staff, especially on the information side. I would actually create an EU information fusion centre on the military activities of the Member State but this must be done by the Member States. The European External Action Service cannot play any role in this beyond suggestion. I’m very grateful to Germany that just donated 82 million dollars for humanitarian assistance to Iraq which is an enormous amount. I’m also happy with the support of France, UK, Italy, Ireland, Denmark and Sweden. Unfortunately I must be critical of the United Nations structures which are quite slow.
We also need to push the new Iraqi leadership, the government lead by the Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, towards reconciliation, to bring back justice, to approve a law on federal courts and a provincial law on federalisation. The Sunnis felt abused in Iraq during Nuri al-Maliki’s government, this must change. We must also support a dialogue about the oil revenue sharing between the Kurds and the rest of Iraq in order to bring Kurds back to the table and to empower much better cooperation and coordination between the Kurdish Peshmerga forces and the Iraqi security forces.
Was this our mistake during Nuri al-Maliki government, that we didn’t pressure him enough to make the necessary reforms?
Yes, we should have exercised much stronger international pressure so that he would lead an inclusive government and perform the necessary reforms. But we all turned mainly to the United States. Unfortunately, Obama decided in 2011 to evaporate the US presence in Iraq almost overnight. The word ‘evaporate’ describes this decision, because he didn’t negotiate any kind of long-term post-presence strategy. That was the wrong decision and we are paying the price for it now. Maliki was denying all the legitimate needs of the Sunni population, he didn’t issue amnesty for tens of thousands of illegally detained Sunni hostages, he abused counterterrorism laws and he couldn’t ensure basic services to the province of Anbar.
When the Sunni population in Anbar started to demonstrate, the predominantly Shiite security forces massacred them in Hawija. This Hawija massacre was never properly investigated. So Sunnis were asking and asking the Iraqi government for protection, health, education and energy services for more than fourteen months and none came for them, on the contrary they had to face security oppression from the Shia militias. So they turned for protection to the Syrian jihadist group Al-Nusra, the former high level representatives of the Iraqi Ba’ath party and to the Chechnyan leaders.
How long can the conflict last?
It will be a long-term engagement. I don’t see it as a matter of weeks or months.
Can Iraq as a state hold together?
After being here for three and a half years I’m a strong believer in the country. The chance still exists but we need a lot of work, energy and money. The future of the whole region is questionable.
Interviewed by Vladka Vojtiskova, edited by Eoin O’Driscoll.
Jana Hybášková serves as the Ambassador of the European Union in Iraq (since 2011). She is a Czech politician and diplomat; from 2004 to 2009 she was a Member of the European Parliament for the European People’s Party. She graduated in Arabic at Charles University in Prague, she was Ambassador of the Czech Republic to Slovenia, Qatar and Kuwait.Foreign Policy Islam Religion Security
Islamic State in Iraq is inspired by Chechnyan Emirate
25 Nov 2014
As Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine finalise association and free trade (DCFTA) agreements with Europe today (27 June), these Eastern Partners, together with the EU, are proving that while geography is destiny, history does not have to be so.
The EU’s Eastern Partnership policy is the bridge which connects Europe to countries which were left out of the cycle of peaceful development brought to post-WWII by the European project.
Even as the voice of increased scepticism towards the EU rang loud and clear in the latest European elections, the citizens of these advanced Eastern partners still believe the European project offers them the best way forward.
They have proven ready to pay a heavy price for their European choice, in the knowledge that no sacrifice is too great for the sake of freedom.
The EU and its three Eastern Partners have come to this point against all odds. Russia failed to force these countries, considered to belong to its “privileged sphere of influence,” to give up on Europe in favour of joining the Eurasian Economic Union.
Neither political and economic pressure, nor direct military intervention, have managed to compete with Europe’s soft power.
While the agreements signed today will not automatically force open the doors to European accession, they are paving a way towards it. The road ahead, however, is a difficult one.
The immediate challenges will be to implement the agreements and to withstand continued Russian pressure.
The Kremlin is unlikely to bury the hatchet. The warnings from Russia have been crystal clear all along, most recently with Russiaan foreign minister Sergei Lavrov declaring that his country will take the necessary “countermeasures” in response to the EU accords.
If history is any point of reference, the Russian response might defy both the letter and the spirit of international law.
Additional Russian economic pressure can still have an impact on the economies of all three Eastern partners. Our voters have high expectations for the benefits of the agreements, but the positive socio-economic impact of the DCFTAs will not come immediately.
Knowing full well the value of predictability and stability for the international investors which these DCFTAs ought to attract to the signatory countries, Russia is unlikely to abandon its chosen policy of exporting instability.
As European integration will not deliver immediate prosperity, the Kremlin’s likely tactic is to foster growing disappointment of the public in its European choice.
The role of the Church
By offering to Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine the way forward towards a more democratic, secure and prosperous future, the EU still has a much stronger hold on the hearts and minds of their citizens than Vladimir Putin’s Russia.
But the future support of our voters cannot be taken for granted. Further success of the Eastern Partnership will depend on securing continued support for democracy, as well as for the European choice of the public in these countries.
In the short term, helping Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine to cope with the implementation of the DCFTAs the and speedy introduction of visa-free travel for Georgia and Ukraine will be instrumental.
As the prospect of Nato membership looks less and less likely for any of the Eastern partners, enhancing the framework of co-operation between them and the EU in terms of security will be another important challenge.
A broad engagement with the citizens, supporting democracy and building solid constituencies for Europe, reaching out to the most influential opinion-makers in these countries, will also be key to success.
In some cases, the potential opinion-makers might be outside of the regular realm of civil society and include influential religious organisations or figures. Religion has started playing an increasingly important role in Russia’s current confrontation with the West. The authority wielded by the religious establishment in some Eastern partners is a sign of weak civil society and needs to be addressed in a medium and long term prospective.
In the immediate future, the Church will continue playing an important role in determining the public attitudes in Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine. The EU needs to find ways to engage with the relevant players to counter Russian influence.
The successful transformation of the three advanced Eastern Partners can be managed only through a European policy which has clearly defined objectives.
Next year, the Riga Eastern Partnership Summit should offer concrete deliverables for each of these countries, aiming at enhanced contractual relations with the EU. Most importantly, it should deliver a membership prospective in the long term and the chance to join a Common Economic Area in the immediate future.
Today marks yet another important achievement of the EU’s transformative power, but Europe needs to be ready for the challenges ahead.
Injecting a new momentum into the Eastern Partnership Initiative, building on today’s success, will rectify the historical injustice which deprived the people of the Eastern Partnership countries of the chance to develop as democratic and prosperous societies for almost a century.
But it will also send an important message to the increasingly sceptical European voters about the magnetic pull of the European project for those, who, so far, have been left out of it.
[Originally published as a guest editorial in EUobserver: http://euobserver.com/opinion/124781 ]Salome Samadashvili Democracy Eastern Europe Enlargment EU-Russia Foreign Policy
The magnetic pull of Europe’s soft power
30 Jun 2014
Russia’s tactics in annexing Crimea and destabilising Ukraine have torn up the assumptions, on which the relationship between the West and Russia had been based since the end of the Second World War.
Forcible annexations of neighbouring territory, a reality in the 1930’s, are now a reality again, thanks to what has happened in Crimea.
Power politics, and spheres of influence of great power, have replaced international law and respect for sovereignty, as the motive forces of European security.
As recently as 1994, EU countries, including Britain and France, reached an international agreement with Russia guaranteeing Ukraine’s frontiers, in return for the non trivial matter of Ukraine abandoning its nuclear weapons, and thereby weakening its deterrent security capacity in an important way. With the annexation of Crimea, that agreement has now been put in the bin.
Already, the EU is visibly divided on how to respond, even though international law on this matter is clear.
On the 1 August 1975, the then Irish Taoiseach, Liam Cosgrave was one of the signatories of the Helsinki Final act governing relations between European states. He signed along the United States, all other European countries (except Albania), and the USSR, which at the time encompassed both Russia and Ukraine.
Article one of the Helsinki Final Act said that the signatory states would “respect each other’s sovereign equality, juridical equality and territorial integrity”, and that they would refrain from the “use of force or the threat of the use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state”.
As a small militarily neutral European state, Ireland has a greater interest, even than has a state which enjoys the comfort of a military alliance, in ensuring that these clear interstate principles are respected.
As Taoiseach, I happened to have been invited to address the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on the very day the Assembly was voting to admit the Russian Federation to membership of the Council. I spoke in favour of Russian accession. Russia became a member on 28 February 1996. The Council of Europe is the source of a dense and comprehensive network of treaties on many topics, including human rights. The Council of Europe, and its Treaties, only have meaning to the extent that its members are willing to abide by international law.
The European Union also rests on the foundation of respect for international law. The EU only EXISTS because there is an assumption that international Treaties will be respected in ALL circumstances. The EU has no force to govern its own members beyond the force of international law in the form of EU Treaties. The European Court of Justice interprets these Treaties and its rulings are accepted by all EU states.
Dividing the EU has been a long standing Russian goal, and President Putin’s aggressive tactics appear to be succeeding in the goal of dividing the EU, in a way that previous Russian efforts have failed. At one end of the spectrum, countries like Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Spain, Italy and Hungary are relatively accommodative towards what Russia is doing, while others, like Lithuania, Poland, Estonia and Latvia are alarmed and looking for resolute action. The bigger EU states are, painfully and unsuccessfully, trying to balance commercial interests against professed principles
The talks in Geneva yesterday have had two important tactical outcomes, the fact that Russia appeared to do business with the new Ukrainian authorities at all, and that it agreed to a request to all armed groups to desist from forcibly occupying official buildings. This will presumably apply equally to the Maidan protesters in Kiev as to the pro Russian protesters in eastern Ukraine. But as Russia does not accept any responsibility for the pro Russian protesters inside Ukraine, Russia will be able to wash its hands of responsibility if the occupations continue.
The key test will be whether the Presidential elections take place peaceably and fairly in May, and whether outside election observers are allowed to do their work.
Putin has shown that he is capable of moving fast, and of changing direction unexpectedly to suit the needs of the moment, while Europe is still laboriously scratching its head.
As 28 nations, the EU will never be able to move with the dexterity of an autocracy like Russia, but if it is not to have its policies dictated in the Kremlin, as a result Russian pressure on energy supplies, it needs to make a radical change in its own energy policies. It needs to build a proper energy union in Europe, independent of Russia, with complete inter connection of its energy distribution grids. That will require a lot of investment, and the diversion of funds from current consumption. But a long term decision like this would create a new momentum with which Russia could not ignore.John Bruton EU-Russia Foreign Policy Security
Putin is splitting up the EU, and tearing up Europe’s post war security order
18 Apr 2014
The chessboard has become the metaphor of choice in the debate about Russia’s aggression. For more than a month now, our condition humaine can be aptly described as ‘waiting for Putin’s next move’ [http://ces.tc/1gsEU2b]. On a more abstract level, this is reflected by the inflationary use of the term geopolitics. Especially among conservatives, we hear appeals that the West, and especially the ‘post-modern’ European Union, has to learn hardcore geostrategy. But on the Left as well, it is fashionable to frame the conflict as an imperial struggle between the West and Russia over a Ukraine which is, in itself, allegedly the embodiment of an East-West split. Geopolitics is not mentioned, but clearly implied. Now, this is how Wikipedia [http://ces.tc/1fQK8oZ] defines the term: ‘… a method of foreign policy [http://ces.tc/1kwRod1] analysis which seeks to understand, explain, and predict international political behaviour primarily in terms of geographical variables.’ Or, as Napoleon put it more bluntly: ‘La géographie, c’est le destin des peuples’.
I beg to differ. Because if that was true, then neither Ukraine nor Georgia, neither Belarus nor Kazakhstan, would ever have the chance to be free countries and choose their alliances, as long as Russia remains as big as it is. Needless to say, this perspective very much suits the Kremlin view in which NATO enlargement (and increasingly also EU enlargement or even association) to Russia’s borders represents a hostile act because they penetrate Russia’s sphere of ‘privileged interest’.
Zoom in on the Euromaidan and it’s easy to see that the geopolitical perspective is profoundly mistaken. What is it that hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians took to the streets for? For what were many of them risking their careers, their health, their personal freedom and their lives – and about 100 actually lost their lives. Was that for this or that empire? For a direction on the compass? Definitely not! What these Ukrainians wanted was something ultimately very simple: a decent future in a halfway modern state, without rampant corruption, with freedom of expression and a fairly functional justice system, and the ability to democratically choose its alliances. Or, as Anne Applebaum [http://ces.tc/Pv2NA2] put it: ‘this conflict pits Ukrainians (both Russian- and Ukrainian-speaking) who want to live in a “European” democracy with human rights and the rule of law, against Ukrainians (also both Russian- and Ukrainian-speaking) — who support an undemocratic, oligarchic capitalist regime that is politically and economically dependent on Russia.’ That is not geopolitics. That is a struggle of political systems. Incidentally, this also puts the alleged conflict between Western and Eastern Ukraine into perspective.
In fact, even Putin and the Russian power elite seem to have at least enriched their erstwhile purely geopolitical narrative with an increasingly comprehensive Eurasian ideology [http://ces.tc/1pYFr17] that casts itself as a grand alternative to the West – although admittedly on clay feet, as far as stringency and philosophical underpinnings are concerned. Nationalism and – increasingly – ‘traditional values’ are blended into imperial rhetoric by the Kremlin and its ideologues. They believe liberal democracy is finished. Hence, like all really important conflicts between political models, this one is ultimately about which one owns the future and which one belongs to the past.
This is actually good news for the EU. Its soft power finds traction with the people of Eastern Europe – or, at least, with their most dynamic parts, including Russians, by the way. But this will only work under four conditions: firstly, for the EU’s soft power to be effective, it has to be backed up by NATO’s hard power – both to deter further aggression and to reassure the allies. That requires political resolve. Secondly, the EU has to be serious about answering to the aspirations of the people who want to live in ‘European’ countries. That requires short term help as well as a long term perspective – which must, in the end, include membership. All this will be a hard sell inside the EU. Thirdly, the West will have to reinvent itself, both in terms of a new transatlantic bond, and in terms of the West Europeans taking the Central and East Europeans more seriously. Fourthly and maybe most importantly, this conflict with Putin’s Russia has to be seen for what it is: a political struggle not identical to, but with a similar intensity as the Cold War. And just like the systemic conflict between 1945 and 1989, this one is winnable.Roland Freudenstein Democracy EU-Russia Foreign Policy
It’s not geopolitics, stupid!
07 Apr 2014
At the Election Congress of the European People’s Party (EPP) in Dublin, EPP affiliated leaders from Eastern Partnership countries Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan discussed the situation in Ukraine and its wider implication for Europe’s Eastern Neighbourhood during a panel organised by the Centre for European Studies (CES), the political foundation and official think tank of the European People’s Party (EPP).
In his opening remarks, CES President and former Prime Minister of Slovakia, Mikuláš Dzurinda kicked off the panel by paying tribute to Ukrainian citizens for making huge sacrifices for democracy. Alexander Stubb, Minister for European Affairs and Foreign Trade of Finland, emphasised that “money is the best pacifier”, as demonstrated by the reaction of the markets in Russia in the recent days. The European Union needs to act firmly to secure Ukraine’s European future and, in this context, the Association Agreement and an EU visa policy towards Ukraine remain essential.
Leonid Gozman, President of the Union of Right Forces in Russia, pleaded for the strengthening of democratic forces in Russia, by saying: “Let me make it clear that thousands of Russians do believe that Russia committed an act of aggression in Ukraine. Crimea is the worst action taken by my country since the invasion of Czechoslovakia.”
Speakers moved on to analyse ways of dealing with Russia in light of the lessons learned from the Ukrainian crisis. Elmar Brok, member of the European Parliament, emphasised that a comprehensive solution for Ukraine requires a more coordinated European policy and a united Western front towards Russia. According to the International Republican Institute Eurasia Regional Director, Stephen Nix, channels of communication with Russia should be kept open, which does not necessarily exclude sanctions against Russia, as US policy shows.
The panel concluded with a discussion on the lessons learned and consequences of the Ukrainian crisis on the wider EU Eastern Neighbourhood. CES Visiting Fellow and former Head of Georgia’s Mission to the EU Ambassador Salome Samadashvili highlighted the fact that the Cold War ended without a settlement and that Russia is currently taking advantage of the lack of clear terms of engagement in the region. Yusif Bagirzade, Chairman of the National Independence Party of Azerbaijan, declared: “The Ukrainian crisis should serve as an incentive for the EU to offer real opportunities to Moldova and Georgia before similar crises erupt there.”
Speakers agreed that in the long run, the EU will have to strengthen its Eastern Partnership Initiative and address civil society (which desires modernisation and stronger ties to the EU) more than governments (which resist that).Defence Democracy EU-Russia Foreign Policy
Eastern Partnership leaders discuss crisis in Ukraine during debate at EPP Congress in Dublin
07 Mar 2014
Europe is strong on soft power. An integrated civil society can exert unified influence beyond its borders. European civil society, while increasingly integrated, benefits from being free from the homogenising forces of a fully developed political framework. It is able to establish flexible networks, links and communication channels, which combine the global power of its media, the brand appeal of its lifestyle industries and the diverse landscape of its many NGOs and political organisations. While largely invisible and diffuse, tireless interactions between civil societies help make the European Union a powerful global actor.
But soft power is limited, especially when it not supported by traditional foreign policy tools. First, it works much better in periods of peace than in emergencies. Second, it is naturally unstable, disorganised and scattered. It is difficult or impossible to use soft power to bring about specific outcomes.
The paradox of European soft power is that it seems to work much better outside than within the borders of the Union. By this I mean that it is often much easier for European civil society to exert a direct influence over civil societies in other parts of the world than to shape European policies and institutions. This may actually be the reason behind the global strength of European civil society. Its agents know that their best hope is to establish direct links across borders. They feel pressed to do so by the relative lack of an established political channel.
My opinion, however, is that this absence poses fundamental problems for Europe and this will have to be addressed. Obstacles to a more direct form of communication and influence between European civil society and EU political institutions are a great source of weakness. On the one hand, EU institutions will suffer from discontinuities for as long as they cannot receive some more direct form of support from European civil society. On the other, social and economic actors in Europe will increasingly feel the need for more traditional tools of foreign and security policy in order to adequately protect their interests. The European Neighbourhood Policy and Maritime Security Policy are two examples of this lack of political integration.
The European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) is based on the Union’s own experience of economic integration. This “size fits all” approach is difficult to implement in light of a changing global environment; deprived of a deeper kind of democratic accountability, the ENP is fated to remain excessively legalistic, technocratic, and almost exclusively focused on long-term engagement. Stefan Lehne, among others, has argued that the next stage of the ENP should be more political and incorporate instruments for short-term impact. The abilities to establish distinctions and to act swiftly are properties of political power.
Similarly, the EU should reassess its Maritime Security Strategy in view of on-going changes to the maritime environment, which challenge its economic interests. International trade is largely affected by interconnected production chains but also non-state actors like pirates and terrorist networks. Rising economic powers will no doubt question the limits of their territorial waters, while deep-see mining is becoming more and more feasible and economically attractive.
What we have here are two ways of looking at the same problem. The ENP has suffered from the fact that the links now existing between European civil society and EU institutions are not strong enough for higher levels of democratic legitimacy. The European Security Strategy is a good example of how European civil society will quickly need stronger political instruments to ensure that its economic interests are adequately pursued and protected.
In the coming months, European policy makers will have to think hard about the best ways to start invigorating these links, so that European soft power – the network power of civil society – can work as well inside our borders as it does outside them.
[Summary of a speech given at a conference entitled “Is Europe Still a Global Player?” at the EU House in Nicosia, Cyprus on 26th February 2014].
Timo Behr, et al., “Maritime Security in a Multipolar World: Towards an EU Strategy for the Maritime Commons”, The Finnish Institute of International Affairs, May 2013. Available at: http://www.ui.se/eng/upl/files/91707.pdf
Stefan Lehne, “Time to Reset European Neighborhood Policy”, Carnegie Europe, February 2014. Available at: http://carnegieeurope.eu/2014/02/04/time-to-reset-european-neighborhood-…
Jan Techau, “How to Breathe New Life Into the European External Action Service”, Carnegie Europe, 7 January 2014. Available at: http://carnegieeurope.eu/strategiceurope/?fa=54102
Susi Dennison, et al., “Why Europe Needs A New Global Strategy”, European Council on Foreign Relations, October 2013. Available at: http://ecfr.eu/page/-/ECFR90_STRATEGY_BRIEF_AW.pdfBruno Maçães European Union Foreign Policy
The Paradox of European Soft Power
05 Mar 2014
Recent months have seen rather little enthusiasm from security experts regarding the upcoming Defence Summit on 19 December. It seems as if despite the pressing issue of increasing security challenges around the EU, no vital decisions are expected to be made when EU leaders will meet this week.
And this although at the beginning experts and politicians were thrilled at the prospect of having a summit that mainly focuses on defence issues with the aim to push member states out of their national defence policy closets. The latest report by the European External Action Service (EEAS) on CSDP in October 2013 outlines ambitious plans and ideas to improve the European defence system that have been on the table for years. The question is, will states move beyond official statements and promises?
Certainly, the pre-Christmas summit lays the ground for the European Council to press ahead with reforms in the areas of operational effectiveness, defence capabilities and the strengthening of Europe’s defence industry. Issues to be dealt with are the reinforcement of the capabilities of the European Defence Agency (EDA), avoiding duplications between NATO and the EU and concrete steps to prevent uncoordinated national budget cuts by member states. Some Brussels insiders, however, fear that discussions on the NSA surveillance affair and calls from southern European countries to tackle illegal immigration at Europe’s external borders could attract most of the attention at the summit.
Notwithstanding these concerns, some aspects should definitely be discussed properly at this summit:
First, indeed, since the ratification of the Code of Conduct of Pooling & Sharing initiatives in by EU Defence Ministers just a year ago, some member states have already made a remarkable effort to harmonise their military capabilities. Take for instance the Netherlands and Belgium, who are conducting coordinated naval training and logistics. Nevertheless, the fact that any naval missions abroad still remain in the hands of each member state has been rightly criticised by senior military officials. We definitely need more investigation in this matter.
Pooling & Sharing initiatives have partly been implemented, as for instance in areas of satellite communication, and this testifies a positive trend in this regard.
But again, fragmented governmental satellite communication systems co-exist. The same applies to EU-wide cooperation in research and technology on cyber defence.
Second, recent joint initiatives on air-to-air refuelling (AAR) by Italy, France and Sweden in September are indeed crucial steps to improve Europe’s military capacities. Nevertheless, cooperation on AAR should be further developed to eventually establish a European multinational multirole tankers fleet.
Third, again the EU should grab the opportunity at this gathering to advertise the increasing role of the European Defence Agency (EDA) in matters of security and defence policy, established to better coordinate member states’ activities in technology, research and procurement. In particular, EDA’s particular capacities and skills to encourage more consultation by EU nations with the agency are of importance.
Fourth, states complaining of high defence expenditures should use the summit to advocate the introduction of a European Defence Review, to get an idea of what Europe’s national military capabilities are. In addition, Europe requires a serious debate on responsibility and effectiveness when it comes to the deployment of EU battle groups.
Fifth, the provision of a fair and effective European defence market, offering also SMEs the opportunity to have a share of the production, should be high on the agenda.
It is understandable that in times of financial crisis member states are obliged to reduce their defence spending.
While it is always debatable whether to engage in any military operation with our partners, capacities, skills and levels of cooperation need to be developed to the extent that we are able to do so if necessary. Some EU states need a wake-up call at this defence summit to realise that more cooperation on the EU level actually means investing less and gaining more.
Let’s face it, our continent cannot afford to lag behind in defence capabilities, given an increase in unpredictable security issues, in particular at Europe’s southern borders, accompanied by a gradual strategic shift of US interest to the Asia Pacific region.Benjamin Tedla Hecker Defence Foreign Policy Leadership Security
Benjamin Tedla Hecker
Political will required to achieve concrete results during today’s Defence Summit
18 Dec 2013
Georgia is unquestionably the most open polity of the South Caucasus, and its political development will be a bell-wether for the prospects of democratic development across Eurasia. This research paper analyses the achievements and shortcomings of the Rose Revolution era as well as the prospects for the country under the leadership of the Georgian Dream Coalition. Furthermore, it discusses the influence of Russia on Georgia’s development on the path of European integration and democracy-building. In the past decade, Georgia has transformed from a failed state to a functioning one; President Saakashvili helped modernise Georgia’s conception of itself and moved Georgia irrevocably toward integration with Euro-Atlantic institutions. Prime Minister Ivanishvili has continued Georgia’s foreign policy priorities of EU and NATO integration, declaring these to be irreversible. Meanwhile, Russia is doubling down on its efforts at coercive integration of the post-Soviet space, with the explicit purpose of undermining the east–west corridor. Should Georgia’s democratic progress be reversed, the very feasibility of democratic governance in post-Soviet countries as a whole would be called into question. Should it continue to progress towards European norms, the viability of the model of state–society relations that Vladimir Putin euphemistically terms ‘sovereign democracy’ would instead be challenged.Democracy EU-Russia Foreign Policy Neighbourhood Policy Security
Getting Georgia Right
02 Dec 2013
A decade has passed since the colour revolutions ushered in a new wave of democratisation into some countries of the former USSR.
Later this week the capital of another former Soviet republic, Lithuania, an inspirational model for the other Newly Independent States emerging from the ruins of the “evil empire,” will host what was hoped to be a historical summit of the Eastern Partnership Initiative. The Initiative encompasses six former Soviet republics with the overarching goal of strengthening the political and economic ties between them and the EU. An ambitious action-plan, or “Roadmap to Vilnius,” envisioned cementing the European future of the most advanced eastern partners at this milestone event.
Sadly the outcome of Vilnius summit will be falling short of these high expectations. Following the decision of Armenia to abandon the path towards the European integration and consider joining the Russian led Eurasian Customs Union, another partner, Ukraine has also refused to sign the association and free trade agreements in Vilnius, leading to mass public protests and deepened political confrontation in the country, the outcome of which is yet to be seen.
Georgia and Moldova are now set to be the “stars” of the Vilnius summit, initialing association and free trade agreements with the EU. This will be an important step forward for both countries. However, the game is far from over.
The declining economic performance of Georgia under its new government, as well as the concerns about selective justice it applies against political opponents, rampant corruption and the volatile domestic political scene in Moldova, alongside the ongoing security challenges posed by unresolved conflicts, all create a fertile ground for impeding the progress of the two champions of the Eastern Partnership in the nearest future.
Four years since the inception of the Eastern Partnership initiative it is both timely as well as necessary to ask, why has this EU policy managed to deliver more in some partner countries than in the others?
Looking at the political, economic and security factors, it is clear that the level of democratic development, the degree of economic dependency on Russia and the nature of the security concerns facing individual partners, all have played their pivotal role in determining respective successes and failures achieved by the Eastern Partnership Initiative vis-a-vis them.
As witnessed most recently in my own country, Georgia, free and fair elections which resulted in the first democratic transfer of power, were largely made possible due to the commitment of the governing elites to the European future of the country. The elections, so far, have not altered the fiercely pro-Western foreign policy orientation molded by the government led by former president Mikhail Saakashvili. As long as democracy and the commitment of the Georgian voters to the European choice survive, it seems that the country will remain safely on the EU path.
A messy, but still democratic process in Moldova, for reasons similar to the ones in Georgia, has also managed to take the country forward towards Europe.
The entrenched political interests of the governing elites in Belarus, Azerbaijan and Ukraine, however, despite the respective differences in the quality of the democratic development of these countries, have been the decisive factor for failure of the Eastern Partnership Initiative to achieve the desired progress there.
As the examples of Armenia and Ukraine also clearly show, strong economic ties with Russia pose a serious threat to the European choice of both the governing elites and the voters amongst the Eastern partners, as do the concerns with respect to the potential security threats and dependency on Russian military assistance.
In this light, what does the future of the Eastern Partnership look like following Vilnius?
The Russian pressure on these countries is likely to increase – as of spring of next year, Russia’s current vanity project, the Sochi Olympics – will be a thing of the past. It is therefore probable that the second, strategically even more important and ambitious project – the Eurasian Union – will be given full attention by the Russian leadership. While the viability of this project still remains uncertain, its potential for undermining the EU’s interests in the region, in light of the recent developments, can no longer be ignored. In the months and years to come, Russian policy towards the countries in its shared neighborhood with the EU will be multifaceted.
Russia will try to agree on deals behind the closed doors with the leadership of those countries where lack of democracy makes it possible to ignore the voters. In the countries where a still nascent but functioning democratic process makes it difficult to discount public opinion, such as Georgia for example, Russia will continue wielding economic and soft power tools to thwart support of voters away from the European future. Russia will also likely deepen security concerns where it can by supporting instability.
What will be the response of the European Union to this increasingly assertive role of Russia? Will it stand up for its strategic interests in the region or will it retreat? Clearly, if the EU is serious about its commitment to the region, after Vilnius it will need to devote substantial intellectual and financial resources to rethinking the policies directed at supporting democracy, economic development and security of its Eastern neighbors.
Five years ago, the disastrous war between my country and Russia served as an impetus for some serious policy thinking in Brussels and other European capitals on the way to stabilise the EU’s eastern neighborhood. This has resulted in the creation of the Eastern Partnership initiative, which despite its limitations, was an important step forward in securing the democratic and European future of our countries.
Let the recent setbacks serve in a similar role, as catalysts for renewing the commitment of the EU to its eastern neighbors.
The strategic interests of the European Union in creating a stable and prosperous neighborhood around its borders, access to the human and natural resources of the Eastern partners and the benefits from the common economic space with them, all are self-evident.
However, strategic interests aside, the people who braved to confront the authorities in the streets of Tbilisi and Kiev some 10 years ago demanding their freedom, who, despite all the disappointments of the decade following the colour revolutions, have not lost their faith in democracy and are willing to go back to the Maidan to defend their European choice, count on the European Union.
Europe must not disappoint us.
[Originally published on euobserver.com: http://ces.tc/1iZpsPD]Salome Samadashvili Defence Democracy EU-Russia Foreign Policy
What next after the EU’s Vilnius summit?
29 Nov 2013
GENEVA WAS THE BEST POSSIBLE DEAL BUT CAN ONLY BE THE FIRST STEP (By Marc-Michael Blum)
The Joint Plan of Action regarding Iran’s nuclear programme that was agreed on in Geneva on November 25th, also often just referred to as “the deal”, has produced strong opinions either in favour or against. Even though at a CES publication launch earlier this year I said I feel rather pessimistic regarding a solution of the issues associated with the Iranian nuclear programme I will side with those feeling positive about the deal. Why that? Because it was the best possible deal at this moment and it is preferable to having no deal at all.
Yes, the sanctions imposed on Iran have hit the countries economy hard and they probably constitute the major factor for Iran to get back to productive negotiations but anybody who might think that these sanctions would bring Iran to the point to fully give up its nuclear programme (and the potential to fuel processing and enrichment specifically) made unrealistic assumptions in the first place. Apart from the fact that external pressure often produces even stronger resistance to give in, the complicated machinery that makes up Iran’s political decision-making process and power distribution would not allow for anything going beyond to what was agreed in Geneva at this point.
So while I agree that ending enrichment activities and the dismantling of facilities would have been preferable it was clear from the beginning that this could only come at the end of a long process and not at the beginning of a 6-month interim agreement. So what do we get? If the agreement is followed (and I will say something about cheating in a moment) Iran will suspend 20% enrichment of Uranium and will either turn existing stockpiles into oxide form, which is not usable for weapons, or reduce the enrichment grade by blending. In addition no more centrifuges can be added and recently installed ones cannot be commissioned. Also work on the Arak reactor that is a possible source for weapons-grade Plutonium is suspended. This is combined with rather strong verification provisions that allow IAEA inspector unprecedented access to facilities.
All of this would ensure that that the time Iran needs for a burst programme to produce enough highly enriched Uranium (or Plutonium) for a nuclear weapon is significantly lengthened instead of shortened as it would have been the case without a deal and with new centrifuges installed. This gives time for further negotiations aiming at a more long term if not final resolution of the dispute on the Iranian nuclear programme and this is what this agreement is all about: Time. But what if the Iranians cheat? If there are strong indications that the agreement is not followed it should be declared void and sanctions should be tightened.
Admittedly it might be hard to do that at some point and its time for the 3+3 to define their red lines now. However if you assume that Iran will for sure cheat there is no need for any further attempts to resolve the problem by diplomatic means. The only option then, if you were not willing to accept an Iranian bomb, would be military action with all possible consequences. This means giving up political options and in my opinion is highly irresponsible. If the decision for Iran’s leadership is either to go for a nuclear weapon to be immune to attempts of external regime change or to suspend nuclear ambitions in order to avoid possible internal change (as happened to so many other countries during the Arab spring) my bet is currently on the latter and the world should make the best of this opportunity. However, lets not forget that things in the Middle East are never easy and always complicated.
This conflict is embedded in numerous others: The clash between Sunni and Shia Islam, the tensions between Arab countries and non-Arab Iran, the conflict of Israel and its Muslim neighbours, increased instability in the region after the Arab spring revolutions, just no name a few. What we see are not only negotiations between the 3+3 and Iran but we also have a number of invisible stakeholders sitting at the table with their concerns and wishes. Will this agreement lead to better sleep for people in Israel or for the leaders of the Gulf countries? Not quite, but on the other hand it should not lead to new nightmares either. Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this blog post are entirely those of the author and do not represent those of any organisation.
GENEVA WAS A BAD DEAL. NOW LET’S GET A BETTER ONE (By Roland Freudenstein)
“Peace for our time” is reportedly what Chamberlain said when he stepped off the plane from Munich in September 1938 where he had negotiated a fateful deal: He had given in to most of Hitler’s demands regarding Czechoslovakia, got little in return and so ended up bringing World War II a good deal closer, as we know today. In many of the critical comments these last days, not only in the Israeli ones, Geneva has been labelled the new Munich. Now, historical parallels should always be handled with care. But I do believe that those who now pride themselves of having averted war, may have actually brought it closer in the end. So let’s look at the drawbacks, the alternatives, and the consequences of Geneva.
What’s bad about the interim agreement? In December 2006, the UN Security Council demanded an immediate end to all uranium and plutonium enrichment in Iran. Over the past years, an elaborate sanctions regime has been built up, which is never easy and took a lot of time and effort. As we see, it has started to bite. But in Geneva last weekend, the West, as part of the 3+3 powers, has not only vowed to impose no new sanctions (which were well on their way), but actually to ease the ones in place. Let’s spell it out: The UN demand of 2006 has now been officially thrown out the window. Western insistence that Geneva is not equivalent to a recognition of Iran’s “right to enrichment” changes little here. Now that the Iranian negotiators have received their heroes’ welcome by regime-sponsored crowds in Tehran and Ayatollah Khamenei has made clear that Iran’s “right to enrichment” was recognised, it is hard to see how the regime can, in future, agree to any deal that would take it away
On sanctions, however, the international and domestic pressure in the West to ease them further will increase. And it should be obvious that even if and when Iran is caught red-handed at cheating, calls for the reintroduction of sanctions will be labelled as “dangerous provocations” that would only antagonize the mullahs. Geneva is a one-sided agreement that leaves Iran’s efforts to achieve nuclear breakout capacity basically intact. It has strengthened the regime domestically, so it can continue to oppress democrats, and internationally, so it can continue to export terror and commit crimes against humanity, such as in Syria. It’s a bad deal.
What would have been the alternative? According to the advocates of Geneva: War. Well, military action to disable Iran’s nuclear weapons programme has always been an option that even Barack Obama never took off the table. And that’s where it should remain. But quite obviously, the main and immediate alternative to both war and a flawed agreement would have been to move to the next round of sanctions while trying to make the regime understand that it has to stop enrichment immediately, and close down (not temporarily limit) all preparations for producing plutonium in Arak. With only current sanctions in place, that may have been difficult to achieve even with the Rohani regime. But it was worth trying tougher sanctions to drive up the cost of enrichment.
Where do we go from here? Now that the interim agreement has been signed, it will be of utmost importance to achieve in the upcoming negotiations what could not be achieved so far: The dismantling of the Iranian effort to develop nuclear weapons. Pressure, including tougher sanctions and military threats, must be upheld, and the temptation to get carried away by our diplomatic “success” must be resisted. As France demonstrated a few weeks ago, it is possible to keep the Obama administration from “kicking the can down the road” on the Iranian nuclear programme.
Because one thing should be clear: If Iran retains any capacity to break out and race to the possession of nuclear weapons within a matter of months, a possible consequence is still an Israeli military strike – because Israelis will never accept a nuclear armed Iran, and they have good reasons for that. But the certain consequence would be a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. Which would surely bring the world closer to a devastating war than a further escalation between the West and Iran due to increased pressure. To prevent such an arms race, not to succeed in diplomacy at any price, must be the main concern of Western leaders in the negotiations ahead.Marc-Michael Blum Roland Freudenstein Defence Foreign Policy Middle East Security
Iranian Nuclear Program: The Geneva Deal Pros and Cons
26 Nov 2013
Due to strong growth rates, BRICS countries are more confident than ever and seek contact with each other. The increase in BRICS to BRICS trade over the last ten years has been impressive: approximately a 1000%, from 29 Billion in 2000 to 319 Billion in 2010.
In a time when Europe is fighting a severe recession and growing economic divergence between its member states, China proposes a currency swap with Brazil to assure access to its raw materials and large consumer market and a BRICS Development Bank including a contingent Reserve Arrangement up to 100 Billion to support these countries is in the works. Will Europe become a victim of intra-BRICS closeness and miss out on trade opportunities? Will Europe have to step aside as a global leader in the near future?
In classic international relations ‘realism’ as opposed to ‘idealism’ is still the dominant theory to make sense of the international world order. In this view, each actor is only concerned with its individual and relative gain instead of absolute gain for multiple countries. Self-interest and survival are their only concern. Is there a danger of deriving to a Hobbesian state of a war of all against all for, for example, natural resources?
We would argue that the EU is still a very rich and competitive continent and all actors (EU, BRICS, etc) also have an interest in developing their so-called ‘Leviathan’. All actors should engage in concluding and creating bilateral or multilateral trade agreements and institutions to enforce a level playing field. At that levelled field, businesses can compete, innovate and generate welfare for an ever growing number of citizens.
Although it is a well-known fact that the Asian countries experience a much higher economic growth than Europe at the moment, the EU-economy is still three times the size of China, measured in GDP. Low growth rates in a large economy still generate more new market demand than high growth in a smaller economy. Other than that, the majority of the BRICS countries export-basket still consists of raw materials and the EU market remains one of the biggest destinations. Brazil for example is the single biggest exporter of agricultural products to the EU.
Furthermore, the EU is China’s biggest trading partner. It illustrates that these emerging economies for a large part still rely on the EU, so a strategy based on pure relative gain might not be the smartest move.
Despite recent trade liberalizations, the Brazilian market for example, is still relatively high protected with an applied customs averaging tariff of 12%. The EU therefore consistently encourages Brazil to reduce tariff barriers and to maintain a stable regulatory environment for European investors and traders. Russia and China on the other hand recently joined the WTO and the latter has made good progress in its membership commitments but industrial policies and non-tariff measures in China still discriminate against foreign companies. India has embarked on a process of economic reform and progressive integration with the global economy that aims to put it on a path of rapid and sustained growth. Negotiations on a free trade agreement with the EU started in 2007.
Considering the theory of ‘realism’, the EU does everything in their power to develop sustainable trade relations with the BRICS countries. So will the rise of the BRICS mark the end of the EU as a global leader? According to the Global Competitiveness Index 2013 from the World Economic Forum, the EU is still miles ahead of the BRICS when it comes to key factors like infrastructure, higher education and business sophistication. This lack of development in some of the most essential market characteristics will keep the BRICS from taking over EU’s top position in the world market in the short to medium term.
However, the EU is challenged and should keep up its focus on increasing its (cost) competitiveness In times of global challenges and economic crises, emerging and established economies should unite in bilateral FTA’s and WTO memberships in order to create a level playing field. Striving towards absolute gain for all the aforementioned continents might in fact be the best way to serve both EU and BRICS’ self-interest.
NOTE: This blog is based on a public presentation in the framework of a Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung Conference in Berlin on 25th September 2013, “Twilight of the Gods in Europe, A Golden Age of the Emerging Countries? The EU and the BRICS States Facing New Global Challenges.”Stefaan De Corte Barend Tensen Economy European Union Foreign Policy
Stefaan De Corte
The rise of the BRICS countries: threat or opportunity for the EU?
14 Oct 2013
Speech by John Bruton, Former Prime Minister (Taoiseach) of Ireland (1994 to 1997), to a meeting of Zhejiang Chamber of Commerce at the Guangzhou Baiyun International Convention Centre, at 9am on Sunday 1 September.
A COUNTRY TRANSFORMED
The last time I was here in Guangzhou was in 1978 when, as a relatively young member of the Irish legislature, I came here to observe the beginning of the modernisation of China , under the leadership of the late Chairman Deng.
My impression, at the time, was that everybody travelled by bicycle, and wore uniform clothes. The sound of China for me, was the tinkle of a thousand bicycle bells. China struck me, then, as a sensibly frugal society, which let nothing go to waste. There was a sense of order, a sense that people knew where they were going.
I also found a people who were was immensely welcoming towards a European like myself, who came from a continent whose interactions with China, over the previous 150 years, had often been marked, on the European side, by exploitation and racism.
I even saw the remnants of the European concessions here in this city, where, until 1949, European nations had applied their own rules, even though on Chinese sovereign territory. In the French concession I came across a disused Catholic church, that had been converted into a clothing factory. I sometimes wonder if it has since been restored to its former use.
I also had a strong sense, then, that China was a society on the move.
Now, 35 years later, I am back in a very different city. In one of the great commercial centres of the world, to see the results of the modernisation initiated 35 year ago.
Most people in the west did not really understand what China was doing then.
THE FOUR MODERNISATIONS
Many may have thought that the Four Modernisations were only rhetoric.
I came across a phrase recently that will probably be familiar to many here, that sums up the Four Modernisations policy initiated here in 1978.
It was that the country was “wading across a river, by feeling for stones underfoot”.In other words, it was a policy of experimentation, of trial and error, of allowing mistakes to be made, of trying different approaches in different regions, and allowing competition between the different approaches and the different regions.This flexibility explains the difference between Chinese and Soviet economic policy at that time, and explains why the first succeeded, and the other failed.Indeed, the strength of the western capitalist economic model, is that it, too, encourages experimentation and trial and error, but uses different methods to do so.
China has made huge strides since 1978. It is now well established, on an income per head basis, as a middle income country according to World Bank classifications.
FROM A MIDDLE INCOME COUNTRY TO A HIGH INCOME COUNTRY
In 1960, there were 100 middle income countries in the world. Ireland was one of them.By 2008, only 13 of those 100 countries had reached high income status. Ireland was one of the 13 that made it, along with Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Mauritius, Spain, Equatorial Guinea, Portugal and Greece. The remaining 87 countries, which were middle income countries in 1960, have undoubtedly made progress since, but they are still middle income countries, and some of those who attained high income status by 2008, may now be falling back into the middle income category.Nothing stands still. Progress to the next stage is not automatic.
Economic growth is, as the economist Schumpeter put it, a process of constant creative destruction. Growth is about change. Change is often painful, and painful, but necessary, change can easily be confused with mindless austerity.
When a country is moving from less developed, to middle income, status, it is often able to compete by doing things , that are already being done, more cheaply than established competitors can do them. It does not have to come up with brand new technologies. it can use existing technologies, but apply at less cost and with minor improvements.
Moving a country, from middle income, to high income status, in contrast, often requires it to push at the boundaries of technology, to find a niche that no one else if filling, to invest in people and ideas as well as in concrete and metal. That is the stage into which China is now moving its 1.4 billion people, a move that promises to be one of the great transformations of human history.
ENGINES OF ECONOMIC GROWTH
The size of the transformation involved explains why China is today spending 2% of its GDP on Research and Development (R&D), which is more, as a proportion of GDP, than Ireland, Netherlands, the UK, Norway, Luxembourg, Italy, and Spain and many other European countries are spending.
Incidentally, Israel, Korea, and Finland are the biggest proportionate spenders on R & D.But R&D alone will not move a country from middle to high income status. It must be made easy for entrepreneurs to use the R&D, by setting up new businesses and to recruiting talented local people to help them do it.Here, Ireland has a strong advantage in that it is one of the easiest places in Europe to set up a new business, and one of the easiest in which to recruit young well educated people at competitive salaries.
This has already attracted 18 different Chinese companies to set up operation in Ireland. Ireland is particularly interested in Chinese companies that are in fields like Life Sciences, Clean tech, financial services and information technology.
Ireland is also active in food exports to China ,which have grown by 92% in just two years!
I believe there are aspects of the Irish educational system from which China could benefit . 5000 Chinese students study in Ireland. Numerous agreements exist between Irish and Chinese Universities. These must be built upon, especially in key areas of research ,like financial services.
REMOVING BLOCKAGES IN THE SYSTEM
If China is to exploit its investment in R&D to the full , it needs to liberalise its system of local residency permits, which discourage migration within China, and to make it easier for new Chinese companies to set up, in competition with existing state owned or established enterprises.
The European Union, with its 0.5 billion people is a much smaller entity than China with its 1.4 billion people, but in the European Union, there are still restrictions on internal migration, analogous to the Chinese residency permit scheme, in that the EU does not have full transferability of Social Security rights, and full mutual recognition of professional qualifications, for internal migrants within the EU.
THE DANGER OF PROPERTY BUBBLES….THE IRISH EXPERIENCE
But it would be unrealistic for me to come here and fail to refer to some of the recent economic difficulties Ireland has encountered. These difficulties are being overcome. Growth has been resumed, foreign investment in the country is at an all time high, and the government is following a careful plan. But it is also important to analyse objectively how Ireland got into these difficulties, and I believe that would be helpful to a country, like China, that is also undergoing rapid development and wants to avoid converting that into a destructive bubble.
Indeed, the latest IMF report on China, contains warnings that will sound familiar to those who have studied recent Irish economic history. It talks of the risks of “a steady build up of leverage eroding the strength of the financial sector”, of “a boom in non traditional sources of credit”, and of the need to take “steps to reduce moral hazard to ensure that banks do not engage in potentially destabilizing competition” in China. On the other hand, it recognises that China has very well capitalised banks.A few years ago, these risks existed in Ireland, and were not adequately addressed by the authorities in Ireland itself, or in the European Union. We have suffered for that, and these are useful lessons for China.As I see it, this is what happened in Ireland. Thanks to artificially cheap credit, and rapidly rising property prices, Ireland experienced a property bubble between 2000 and 2007. This bubble led to a radical distortion of the country’s economic structures, and to a big increase in private and government debt.The cheap credit was available because of decisions taken by the US Federal Reserve and by European Central Bank. Both favoured low interest rates. They did so to avoid dislocations to the economy, that might have arisen from the dot com burst, 9/11, and the costs of German reunification. In these goals they succeeded.But the extra credit found its way across national boundaries into housing markets in various countries, causing a bubble in prices, most notably in Ireland. In 2008, the bubbles burst.
BUBBLES DISTORT THE ECONOMY
The bubble distorted the Irish economy in ways that will take years to repair. There was distortion in the form of a doubling in the size of the construction sector, large and uncompetitive pay increases across the economy, and rapid increases in numbers of people employed in the public sector. The fact that money flowing in, temporarily, to government coffers, made it hard to resist demands to increase the size of the government sector, permanently. In just five years from 2001 to 2006, the share of the workforce in the public sector reached 29%, as against 19% in Germany. The numbers in top grade positions in the civil service grew by 86% .
Bubbles misallocate human capital. Instead of choosing careers and skills, for which there is enduring global demand, talented people were drawn, by quick rewards, into activities for which demand is inherently temporary, like construction.
WHY BUBBLES HAPPEN
In a way, it is easy to see why people made the mistake of thinking, in the 2000 to 2006 period, that house prices in Ireland (and household wealth) would never stop rising. Recent history seemed to suggest that the only way house prices could go was up. House prices had already risen by 133% between 1994 and 2000. These increases were justified by rapid economic growth, immigration, and new family formation, all of which created a genuine demand for housing. The trouble is that the increase in house prices continued after 2000, and was financed, not by improved competitiveness, but by excessive lending, and by income generated from, inherently temporary, construction spending.
The assumption of the bankers, who were lending this money, seemed to be that demand for housing could go on growing, to infinity. A moment’s thought would have shown how nonsensical that was. But, in the middle of a boom, people are often too busy, to take a moment to think. The revenue of the Government became unhealthily dependent on taxes derived from property sales such as stamp duty, capital gains tax, and VAT on house sales. Property related revenues reached 18% of all revenues in 2006, whereas they were only been 8% in 2002. But once house sales stopped or slowed down, of course, that revenue growth stopped, leaving a huge hole in the Government’s budget.
Again, a moment’s thought would have shown how dangerous it was, to build up permanent spending programmes, on the back of inherently temporary streams of revenue. But very few people, in politics or outside it, took a moment to think. For a country like China, the relevant question to ask about Ireland’s recent experience is
“How can sensible, and generally public spirited, people make mistakes like this, and how can such mistakes be avoided ?”
THE CAUSES OF BUBBLES………….SILO THINKING, AND FOLLOWING FASHION, WITHOUT REFLECTION
I would identify two tendencies of policy making in both the public and private sector, that were at the heart of the problem in Ireland
1. “Silo tendencies” within institutions, charged with mitigating risks, where people only thought about their own immediate responsibilities, and did not question wider assumptions.
2. A “consensus approach”, which encouraged a single view to be taken of any issue. Human beings are followers of fashion. We need institutions that deliberately challenge fashionable assumptions, and those institutions did not work, in Ireland or in the wider European Union.
These errors can occur in ANY country, under ANY political system. They are not unique to Ireland, Spain, Arizona, California, Florida, or any of the other parts of the world where property bubbles arose.
China must be wary that these problems do not arise here, and I know the authorities here are fully alive to these risks.
THE GLOBAL CHALLENGES…..AGEING, MIGRATION, CLIMATE CHANGE, AN ERODING TAX BASE , AND SOUND FINANCE.
These are the five big problems that the counties of the world must come together to tackle. They are all loosely related to one another. With the exception of the finance problem, they are all problems that are silently creeping up on us, so silently in fact that it is difficult to create a sufficient sense of immediate crisis, to get anything done about them. Technology will provide some of the answers, and I know China is devoting a significant proportion of its R&D to some of these issues.But sacrifices and compromises will be needed between and within nations. Pension entitlements will have to be limited in some countries, working lives extended, and elder care vastly expanded with the aid of technology. Migration will have to be accepted in ageing economies, and that is a big cultural challenge.CO2 emissions and pollution will have to be tackled by making the ultimate polluter meet the full cost of what he does.
We may eventually need some form of global taxation, to meet the cost of preserving out common global heritage, but, in the meantime, we need to restore the tax base of states, in a cooperative way. We cannot expect Governments perform functions if its revenues are artificially depleted.
And finally we need to put banking on footing that will be sound enough to allow incompetent banks to be closed down without putting the whole economy at risk. “Too big to fail” and “ too interconnected to fail” should no longer be characteristics of our banking systems.
THE EURO….WHAT IS ITS FUTURE?
The existence of the euro, the single currency, has not created the economic crisis in Europe.This was going to come anyway because of lost competitiveness, the emergence of new competitors, like China, for traditional European industries, and the progressive ageing of European societies. Expansionary monetary policy could only have postponed the emergence of the symptoms, it could NOT have prevented the illness.
What the existence of the euro has done is impose discipline and mutual solidarity on Europe.
Without the euro, countries would have pursued the route of devaluation and inflation in response to their problems. Savings would have been wiped out. This is not possible now, and that is good. Instead problems are now being tackled at their source.Without the euro, wealthier and stronger European countries would not have come, so quickly, to the aid of other European countries in difficulty. They have now done so on a systematic basis, and that too is good.The EU is moving toward a common system for winding up banks that need to be wound up, without putting the overall system at risk. It is moving toward a common system of deposit insurance. These are issues that also require attention here in China.Much better systems are now being put in place in the European Union, to ensure that, in future, public finances, and underlying competitiveness, do not get out of line again. Out of the crisis, we are now facing up to problems we had ignored for the past 20 years in Europe.
The euro will survive. Not only that, I believe it will eventually be imitated in other parts of the world.
To sum up, the euroJohn Bruton Crisis European Union Eurozone Foreign Policy
+ is a protection against the expropriation of savings, through inflation and devaluation.
+ is a factor for economic stability in the world, and
+ is a major political step forward for unity Europe.
China, Europe and the Political Economy of the World
05 Sep 2013
The allegations by Edward Snowden that the United States National Security Agency (NSA), for which he worked, spied on diplomatic missions of the European Union in Washington and New York, and even on the building where EU Summits take place in Brussels, are very serious. They require a deliberate and sustained response, not something exaggerated, or that will last only for a one day news cycle, and later expose contradictions in the EU positions.
The truth is that fundamental values are at stake here for the EU. The founding idea of the EU was that relations in, and between, states should be governed by rules, rather than, as previously, by raw power. States and individuals should be equal before the law. The Snowden allegations, if true, reveal a grave breach on international law by an agency of the United States government. This is not something that can emoted about in the short term and then later brushed aside with a worldly wise and jaded shrug, on the basis that ”everyone is at it.”
A CLEAR BREACH OF THREE ARTICLES OF THE VIENNA CONVENTION
The law on this matter is crystal clear. The Vienna Convention of 1961 codifies the rules under which diplomats and embassies do their work. But the rules themselves go back, in customary international law, to the 16th century. The 1961 Vienna Convention has been ratified by the United States. Indeed the US relied successfully on that Convention in the International Court of Justice, when its own diplomats and Embassy were interfered with by Iran in 1979. It is in the national interest of the United States to ensure that this Convention is respected, without question, and as a matter of routine, in order to ensure protection for its own missions abroad.
The Vienna Convention says, in article 22:
“the premises of a (diplomatic) mission shall be inviolable”.
”A receiving state shall not enter them, except with the consent of the Head of Mission”
“The receiving state is under a special duty to take all appropriate steps to protect the premises of the mission from any intrusion.”
Article 24 of the Convention says the “archives and documents of the mission shall be inviolable” and Article 27 extends similar protection to it correspondence.
The Snowden/Der Spiegel allegations suggest that listening devices were placed in the EU Mission in Washington, without consent, which would be a blatant breach of Article 22. No such consent was given in my time in Washington. They also suggest that the NSA hacked into the computer system of the EU missions, which would be a clear breach of both article 24 and 27 of the Vienna Convention.
Reacting to these allegations, US figures, like the former head of the CIA, made no reference at all the US obligations under international law, to the US interest in protecting diplomacy, or even to the unfairness and bad faith involved in spying on partners with whom one is supposedly negotiating in a transparent way. Instead he sought to dismiss them, by hinting vaguely about intelligence gathering by some EU states.
But what is alleged was not a case of the US reciprocally countering supposed illegal activities by some EU states. It was hostile and illegal activity, by the US, directed against the EU itself, and the EU does not do have either the capacity, or the authority, to carry on any reciprocal surveillance of US missions in Europe, and does not do so. The ex head of the CIA knows that perfectly well.
In any event, I do not understand the point of what the NSA was supposedly doing. The activities of the EU Missions abroad and of the Council of Ministers in Brussels deal with subjects on which the facts are well known, and on which negotiating options are also fairly obvious. They can be easily discovered by US officials, simply by asking. They do not involve sensitive questions concerning the security of the United States, which is supposed to be the concern of the NSA.
There will, very occasionally, be commercially sensitive and confidential information shared with the EU Mission in Washington by European or American companies, which might be useful to its competitors. Apart from the illegality involved, the NSA would have no legitimate reason to seek out, collect, or share that sort of commercial information. I believe what is involved here is a case of a security bureaucracy gradually extending is role, and engaging in “mission creep” just because it can and because nobody is stopping it. The missions of Agencies are often lazily defined and open to multiple interpretations. That may well be the case with the NSA.
BUT TRADE AND INVESTMENT TALKS SHOULD CONTINUE
What should the EU do now? I will start by saying what it should not do.
It should not suspend the negotiation of a possible Trade and Investment Pact with the United States. In fact, it should recognise that these allegations strengthen the EU’s hand in these negotiations, in the sense that the US now has to demonstrate its good faith. Nor should it expect an early, full, or contrite admission from the United States of what might have happened, or make that a precondition for anything.
Instead, The EU should adopt a twin track approach. It should continue with the trade and investment negotiations, as if nothing had happened. But, simultaneously and separately, the EU and its member states should follow the example set by the United States itself in 1980 and take a case in regard to these allegations of breaches of the Vienna Convention to the International Court of Justice in the Hague. This assumes that it can obtain sufficient documentary evidence of the Snowden allegations from Mr Snowden, or from Der Spiegel. Pursuing a legal route would de-politicise the issue in the short term and allow time for things to cool down.
Surveillance technology has advanced a great deal since 1961 when the Convention was concluded. A new judgement from the International Court in this case would be helpful. It would re-establish and modernise the norms of behaviour we would want all countries to respect in future, notably emerging powers like China. President Obama, who, probably more than any previous President, understands the significance of international law, and who wants to bring countries like China fully within its strictures, should welcome such a robust reaffirmation of the Vienna Convention.
[Originally published in http://www.irishtimes.com]John Bruton EU-US Foreign Policy Security Transatlantic
US spy affair: a case of international law?
11 Jul 2013
Karl Marx wasn’t wrong on everything. Take his famous dictum about history repeating itself: The first time as tragedy, the second time as farce. If 2003 was a transatlantic tragedy, with the open rift within the West about the Iraq War, then 2013, with its revelations of American data mining and spying on allies, and the ensuing European shock and anger, risks becoming the year of a transatlantic farce.
Again, European atlanticists look stupid – poodles to the US, so to speak. Again, and even more ominously, resentment against America has become a tool of European politics: witness the German Social Democrats’ blatant attempts (http://ces.tc/14XJ2mS) to paint Chancellor Merkel as too docile vis-à-vis American unilateralism. The pictures showing her smiling next to Barack Obama in Berlin, two weeks ago still an asset, suddenly have become a liability in her re-election bid.
Nevertheless, this is not 2003 – the main reason being that Europe’s relative weight in the transatlantic relationship has actually further declined over the last ten years: both militarily and economically. Militarily, the United States is – rightly or wrongly – withdrawing its last major combat units from Europe while Europeans compete in cutting their defence budgets to record lows. And they show very little willingness to shoulder any major new security burden. Economically, the US is now moving out of the crisis while Europe seems mired in stagnation, with dwindling exports, low competitiveness and a mountain of over-regulation. America is busily exploring shale gas, thereby creating windfall profits as well as reducing its energy dependence – while Europeans are dragging their feet over shale gas and thus risk missing out on cheap energy and less dependence on Russia.
Now we know that in 2003, the US also believed it could get on without the (West) Europeans. Or without anybody else, for that matter – after all, the term unilateralism was then born in reference to a White House allegedly in the grip of neocon ideology. But that mood changed very quickly in Washington, where the second George W. Bush administration became very cooperative with all Europeans – much more so than Obama’s America ‘pivoting’ towards Asia.
So where does this leave us atlanticists in the days of transatlantic spying and data mining? Three major truths come to mind:
First, most transatlantic spying is done jointly, not against each other. And it is important to keep the data mining apart from the eavesdropping. Data mining in private communication, according to all we know today, is also done by the French and British intelligence services, and the German authorities were at least informed about some of the NSA’s activities. After all, some spectacular successes of European services against would-be terrorists, such as Germany’s preventing the ‘Sauerland’ gang (http://ces.tc/12fEIkj) from killing hundreds in 2007, were already then explained by US services having used telephone and internet data.
Hence, there is no reason for Europeans to be particularly morally outraged about Snowden’s revelations. On the other hand, the scope of the snooping on the internet will be open for debate. Everyone in this debate subscribes to the need to find the right balance between privacy and security. No one can claim to have found the perfect solution. And as to the spying on allies: while we still have to learn about its actual scope – it is clear that diplomats always have to envisage that others will try to get hold of their secrets – even friends. In the EU institutions, with the lax attitude to secrecy and some Member States’ tendency to leak documents, it usually doesn’t take listening bugs or malware for others to find out what the European External Action Service or the Commission are up to.
Second, are trade talks such as TTIP the appropriate framework to hit back in anger? – No, because that would be self-defeating on a large scale. Due to the growing transatlantic asymmetry, and because of Europe’s dire need to increase its own potentials for growth, it has very little leverage through suspending or dragging out the negotiations. They will be hard enough from now on, in any case. To open up US public procurement, for example, or for Europeans to accept importing genetically manufactured organisms (GMOs), will require protracted domestic battles on either side. And, of course, discussing digital services in the TTIP framework will be a good opportunity to speak about privacy and security. But that would also presuppose having a digital single market in the EU – which is not in sight at the moment. All this means that the talks must go on now. Transatlantic differences in the digital field can be resolved in due time.
Third, it is time to develop a more realistic atlanticism (http://ces.tc/14XJhyc) : That includes being a bit more open about the dilemmas of freedom and security in the age of global terrorism. Some of the transatlantic rhetoric about the freedom of the individual as a core value of the West will sound hollow if we don’t more openly redefine it for the 21st century. There will have to be more exceptions to fundamental rights if we want to preserve them at all. If we pay attention to that, then 2013 does not have to become the year of the transatlantic farce.Roland Freudenstein Foreign Policy Internet Trade Transatlantic
Transatlantic relations need more realism – not more hysteria
08 Jul 2013
Henna Hopia Defence Foreign Policy Leadership Security Transatlantic
Breaking down the Walls: Improving EU-NATO Relations
05 Jul 2013
Founded in Egypt in 1928 by Hassan al Banna, the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) is the oldest and most influential modern Islamist movement. As per its motto ‘Islam is the solution’, the MB sees Islam as an all-embracing system governing all aspects of private and public life that, once implemented, constitutes the antidote to all the social, moral, economic and political ills plaguing Muslim societies.
Even though it does not completely eschew the use of violence for political goals, the MB aims to achieve its goal of establishing a purely Islamic system of government as a natural consequence of the peaceful, bottom-up Islamisation of the majority of the population.
The brief analyses the situation of Muslim Brotherhood (MB)-inspired entities throughout the Arab world two years after the beginning of the Arab Spring. In keeping with the flexibility and political opportunism that has characterised the group since its early days, Muslim Brotherhood inspired entities have adopted different positions according to the circumstances. In Tunisia and Egypt, where for the first time in history they have gained power through elections, MB entities are trying to gradually solidify their positions and advance their agendas while avoiding dramatic moves that could undermine their still weak hold on power.
In Arab countries where authoritarian regimes still rule, Muslim Brotherhood entities are adopting positions ranging from participation in government to military confrontation. The brief concludes by analysing potential concerns for Western policymakers and future scenarios.Arab Spring Democracy Elections Foreign Policy Islam
The Muslim Brotherhood after the Arab Spring: Tactics, Challenges and Future Scenarios
29 May 2013
Europe needs to use the strengths of both the EU and NATO to effectively respond to the ever more diverse threats that require collective efforts. This is the only way through which European security can be guaranteed in the face of struggles with limited resources and decreasing defence funding, as well as the further US disengagement from Europe. For this to happen, and as both organisations share most of the same member states, it is vital to achieve better cooperation between the EU and NATO. Attempts to strengthen EU-NATO relations have been made, but these have not been enough. The attempts always hit the same walls: both between the EU and NATO, and within these organisations. All EU Member States and the organisations themselves must now take responsibility and end the futile competition between the EU and NATO that is undermining European security.Defence Foreign Policy Security Transatlantic
Breaking Down the Walls: Improving EU–NATO Relations
29 May 2013
For the European Union, democracy support is both a moral obligation and an expression of enlightened self-interest. Those who live in freedom have an obligation to support those who don’t, if and when such support is desired. At the same time, historical experience shows that democracies are in general more peaceful and more prosperous than countries under authoritarian rule or failed states. Hence, the European Union, its Member States and its citizens have good reasons to assist democrats, support the transition to the rule of law and good governance, and help the development of civil society in the countries of its Southern and Eastern neighbourhood.
The years 1989-1991, with the peaceful revolutions in Central and Eastern Europe, were a perfect example of such a development. Western support for the democracy movements was crucial, and the successful transition of the last two decades has by far exceeded all initial expectations.
In the last ten years, however, it has become clear that the transition to democracy, good governance and the rule of law in the Eastern neighbourhood is by no means as easy (in hindsight) as in the Central and Eastern European countries that have by now joined NATO and the EU. That is because in the Eastern neighbourhood, contrary to Central Europe, civil society is generally less developed, traditions of statehood are often lacking, economic development is far below Central European standards, and Russia has often played a rather nonconstructive role in what it still considers its ‘near abroad’. Since the ‘colour revolutions’ of the early 2000s, there has even been a backslide into more authoritarian rule – for different reasons – in countries such as Belarus, Ukraine and Georgia.
In the EU’s Southern neighbourhood, the enthusiasm after the initial Arab revolts of 2011 has given way to a more sober assessment: Here, too, civil societies are generally poorly developed (although Lebanon and Tunisia look comparatively good), good governance and the rule of law are rudimentary, societies are sometimes deeply divided along sectarian lines or the paradigm of the role of religion in public life – and, above all, some countries are in a civil war (Syria) or and some economies are near free-fall (Egypt). Equally important, Europe as part of the West is tainted in the eyes of many democrats because of its former support for authoritarian rulers. All this makes for a substantial difference to the situation in Central and Eastern Europe in 1989.
In conclusion, it is clear that in most neighbourhood countries today, South as well as East, the basis for democracy support does not exist to the same degree it existed in 1989 and the following years in Central and Eastern Europe. That does not mean one should give up trying to promote central democratic values. But it means that the EU needs a new instrument to make its efforts more political, more sustainable, more flexible and more efficient. Hence, the six key challenges for the European Endowment for Democracy are the following:
• Elections vs. rule of law, good governance and civil society: If there is one overriding lesson of democracy support over the last 20 years, it is that democratic elections alone do not secure democracy, let alone make for a stable and prosperous development. Much more work and resources have to be invested into civil society and its actors and institutions, as well as into the understanding of the rule of law, due process and good governance. Hence, the support for elections and political movements must go hand in hand with a more long-term effort to secure the other factors.
• Good analysis: Democracy support in the EU’s neighbourhood is only possible based on a thorough analysis of the situation on the ground. Assessments of the overall political situation, as well as the crucial actors in the respective countries, and a good overview of NGOs and civil society organisations, cannot come only from diplomatic representations. but must be based on information and analysis from European NGOs that have a permanent presence, as well as local actors themselves.
• Identify the Unsupported: It is often a challenge to identify actors and organisations that are efficient, and fulfil the criteria for support (above all, public traction and/or access to decision makers), and that are not yet supported by any other European or Western donor. This, too, will require close cooperation and coordination with other actors of democracy support.
• Risk management: In many neighbourhood countries , authoritarian rulers pose increasingly high challenges to NGOs and individuals accepting support from external actors (cf. Belarus’ ‘foreign agents’ legislation). In the Middle East and North Africa, there is often not only the danger of legal action against Western democracy support organisations (cf. in Egypt against 17 US & German NGOs), but also a risk of public stigmatisation as ‘agents of the West’. Hence, support must be carefully calibrated to the actual risks for local actors, and damage to them must be avoided.
• Capacity building: In both the Eastern and the Southern neighbourhood, due to the rudimentary structures of civil society, many NGOs and CSOs have poorly developed administrative and analytical capacities. Hence, while they may be politically attractive, any effort to support them must take into account the need to train personnel and provide long term support. This can only be ensured by close cooperation with other democracy support organisations.
• Rivalry/Complementarity: While the EED is an independent private law foundation, it will nevertheless have to not only avoid duplication with existing organisations (such as the EIDHR, or big national political foundations) but also closely cooperate with them. Rivalry is to be avoided, and complementarity is the only way forward.
Hence, the EED will need to carefully balance between political organisations and classical civil society actors, build a solid analytic base (country files), specify the criteria for recipient organisations, take into account the inherent risks in democracy support, be conscious of the need for capacity building, and – above all – cooperate with all other European and extra-European donors and actors in the EU’s neighbourhood.
[Photo source: http://democracyendowment.eu/]Roland Freudenstein Democracy European Union Foreign Policy
Supporting the Unsupported: Mission & Challenges of the European Endowment for Democracy
16 May 2013
One week after the Boston bombings, with the perpetrators dead or arrested, we may not know the whole story yet. But we know that America is, once more, confronted by a case of ‘home-grown’ terrorism, i.e. an attack by people that, no matter where they originally came from, radicalised themselves and became jihadists while being residents of a Western country. Most previous comparable attacks were unsuccessful – this one was not. And in the ensuing debate about what can be done to prevent such attacks, we are experiencing a sense of déjà vu: just like in Europe after comparable attacks, foiled or successful, the knee-jerk reaction by the Left is to search the perpetrators’ curriculae for signs of disenfranchisement, of dashed hope and discrimination suffered at the hands of the host country’s majority. And the conclusion is invariably that if we could only become more tolerant, more open societies, such sad cases would not happen. Which is why the best preventive anti-terror strategy is anti-discrimination legislation, promoting a multi-cultural society and legalising all forms of immigration.
Conservatives in the US, unsurprisingly, took a different view. Some Republicans again questioned the President’s project of a new immigration bill, demanding much tighter restrictions on immigration in the future. Others took this opportunity to criticise gun control: during the manhunt, when Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was still eluding police, gun lobbyists tweeted whether Boston area Democrats wouldn’t wish they had a semiautomatic rifle now. But the argument most often given by US conservatives is very simply that all other immigrant groups so far have integrated themselves – often in a long and sometimes painful process – without resorting to the kind of indiscriminate violence at play in Boston. So one might well discuss more efficient ways to integrate immigrants, and better early warning methods for law enforcement to detect radicalisation, as well as improved incentives for de-radicalisation. Maybe European experience can be of some help here. But on the central issue of multiculturalism, there is no reason to make an exception to the rule that no democracy can allow parallel societies – parts of immigrant populations where the basic values of our constitutions are systematically disregarded. Europe and America are today closer than ever before in having to meet this challenge. We should do this together – that’s one of the lessons of the Boston bombing.Roland Freudenstein Defence EU-US Extremism Foreign Policy Transatlantic
After Boston – Terrorism, Immigration and Integration
24 Apr 2013
On the 22nd of April 2013, the Centre for European Studies (CES) kicked off a new series of events entitled ‘Food for Thought’; the first event in the series, entitled ‘Leading from Behind: U.S. Foreign & Defence Policy Ten Years after Kagan’s Of Paradise and Power’ welcomed Kenneth Weinstein, CEO and President of Hudson Institute in order to discuss Obama’s foreign policy and its implications for the transatlantic relationship.
In his introductory remarks, CES Director Tomi Huhtanen emphasised the importance the Centre for European Studies, as the official think tank of the European People’s Party attaches to transatlantic relations. As part of the transatlantic research agenda, the Centre for European Studies regularly publishes studies and organises events with experts and senior officials from both sides of the Atlantic; one of the most important events of this kind is the Transatlantic Think Tank Conference, a conference which takes place every year in Brussels and Washington.
Dr Weinstein started his intervention by recalling that ten years ago, the launch of a second U.S.-led war against Saddam Hussein exposed intra-NATO differences of temperament and philosophy in sharp relief. This stark divergence of perspective on both sides of the Atlantic then led political scientist Robert Kagan, in a famous essay and subsequent book titled ‘Of Paradise and Power’, to declare that Europe and the U.S. had come to inhabit two separate planets entirely. According to Kagan, the Americans were ‘from Mars’, emphasising force projection in international affairs, while Europeans were ‘from Venus’, favouring ‘laws, rules and transnational negotiation and cooperation.’
Ten years later and taking into consideration the different imprint left by President Obama on US foreign and defence policies, the metaphor seems to have inversed and the planets seem to have realigned, according to Dr Weinstein. In support of his argument, he cited the examples of Libya, Syria or Mali, where the Europeans had taken the (military) lead. In the meantime, looking at troop draw-downs in Iraq and Afghanistan or diplomatic engagement with Iran, Americans seem to have turned inward ‘with an almost Venusian vengeance.’ In an even more worrying development, Dr Weinstein pointed out that US’s unilateral acts vis-à-vis its European partners were frustrating the latter, leading to a decline of influence of the West as a whole in global affairs.
After this initial setting of the scene, the participants engaged in a lively comments and questions session, whose main conclusions were the following: the US and the EU need to continue to work together during these challenging times for the transatlantic Alliance, especially with the rise of new world powers such as China and others. While neither the Mars nor the Venus approaches are sufficient on their own, the two powers need to combine them in a manner that leads to improved outcomes, particularly when it comes to intervention, reconstruction and withdrawal strategies. In the case of Syria, for example, the ‘leading from behind’ doctrine should materialise into concrete actions that provide a model and set an example for future transatlantic burden sharing.
The fact that the Europeans are recently sometimes taking the leadership in their own neighbourhood is not per se a bad thing, and it can signal that they are ready to be a real partner in the transatlantic framework – although this has, in the past couple of years, pertained to France and Britain only, not to the entire European Union. However, American leaders need to communicate their changes of strategy better, so that the Europeans do not feel alienated. Last, but not least, Dr Weinstein concluded that both American political parties should communicate strategic doctrine principles better and more often to the American public, so that they build public support for US foreign policy.Defence EU-US Foreign Policy Security Transatlantic
President of Hudson Institute: ‘The US and the EU need to find common ways to engage globally’
23 Apr 2013
Ten years ago last month, the launch of a second U.S.-led war against Saddam Hussein exposed intra-NATO differences of temperament and philosophy in sharp relief. So stark was the divergence of perspective on either side of the Atlantic that analyst Robert Kagan—in a justly celebrated Policy Review essay and subsequent book titled “Of Paradise and Power”—was moved to declare that Europe and the U.S. had come to inhabit two separate planets entirely.
Americans were still “from Mars,” he suggested, maintaining the alliance’s traditional emphasis on real and potential force-projection as a tool in international affairs. Europeans, on the other hand, were now “from Venus,” their leaders deliberately “moving beyond power into a self-contained world of laws and rules and transnational negotiation and cooperation.” It was a striking metaphor, and Mr. Kagan’s masterful description of its intricacies continues to influence how policy makers on both continents view each other.
The only wrinkle is that in recent years neither continent has behaved the way it is supposed to. In Barack Obama, the U.S. has a president who is clearly not from Mars. His foreign and defense policies—troop drawdowns in Iraq and Afghanistan, attempts at diplomatic engagement with Iran, and so forth—are guided by concerns that might once have been described as “European”: a presumptive skepticism about military power, and an instinctive preference for multilateralism and diplomacy in its place.
Initially presented as an overdue restoration of “balance” and “partnership” to trans-Atlantic relations, what the president has wrought is considerably more dramatic. “America cannot turn inward,” then-Sen. Obama proclaimed at a July 2008 speech in Berlin. It seems he underestimated us.
America has managed to turn inward with an almost Venusian vengeance. Nowadays it is Europeans who must repeatedly goad Washington to join a humanitarian intervention in Libya against Moammar Gadhafi. It is Europeans who try but fail to enlist the U.S. in an effort to arm the antigovernment resistance in Syria. Europeans—former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, in this instance—must lobby the U.S. Congress for tougher sanctions against Tehran. Europeans—François Hollande, Mr. Sarkozy’s Socialist successor—make decisions about troop deployments in Mali more or less on their own.
President Obama’s advisers like to style their last-in-the-saddle reserve as “leading from behind.” In London and Paris and elsewhere on the Continent, behind closed doors and off-the-record, they call it something else.
It is not merely the substance of recent policy that has surprised and distressed our European allies. Paradoxically, “unilateralism”—the great, tragic flaw ascribed by its critics to George W. Bush’s presidency—is the one impulse his successor has most notably retained.
The first shock came in Warsaw, early in Mr. Obama’s first term: The Polish government got only a few hours’ advance notice that Washington had decided to cancel a painfully negotiated missile-defense system that was irritating Moscow. Next came the president’s December 2009 speech on Afghanistan—announcing coalition manpower and scheduling commitments about which the Europeans had been only nominally consulted. Then came the White House advisory that Mr. Obama would break with tradition and not attend the 2010 EU-U.S. Summit in Madrid; EU representatives weren’t informed beforehand.
So the Atlantic Alliance remains as fissured as ever, but for new and very different reasons. These days Europeans don’t complain to visiting Americans about feeling bullied by the White House. They complain about feeling ignored. It isn’t a question of policy per se, but rather a general sense of alienation: a cumulative impression across the Continent that liberal, democratic Europe—as both idea and practical priority—is sliding off Washington’s radar.
More is at stake here than wounded vanity. European responses to this recent retreat from traditional American leadership vary. The French and British seem inclined to fill the vacuum—on an occasional basis and economic circumstances permitting. The Germans and Poles appear to prefer small-bore, bilateral arrangements of convenience—with respect to Russia, for example. Nevertheless, the result is ultimately the same: The vitality of “the West” as a global security lodestar is fading.
In Washington, with isolationist tendencies in both major parties, our policy makers may not have noticed. But the non-Western rest of the world is paying close attention—and eagerly anticipating an international playing field in which vigorous, coherent NATO responses need no longer be assumed.
This op-ed by Kenneth R. Weinstein, President and Chief Executive Officer of Hudson Institute originally appeared in the ‘Wall Street Journal’.Kenneth R. Weinstein Foreign Policy Leadership Transatlantic
Kenneth R. Weinstein
Venus and Mars Revisited
18 Apr 2013
The Centre for European Studies is proud to participate as a Strategic Partner at GLOBSEC 2013 (Bratislava Global Security Forum), a high level conference that will take place during April 18-20, 2013.
Founded eight years ago, the GLOBSEC Bratislava Global Security Forum has become a unique foreign policy and security platform – giving a Central European twist to the strategic debate on transatlantic foreign policy, economy and security. With the participation of over 500 key stakeholders from more than 40 countries, GLOBSEC has acquired a stable position among the elite club of major conferences in Europe and North America and is often compared with prestigious forums held in Brussels or Munich.
Organised by the Slovak Atlantic Commission in cooperation with a wealth of institutional and international partners, GLOBSEC 2013 will welcome, among others: H. E. Radoslaw Sikorski, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland; H. E. Karel Schwarzenberg, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic; H. E. Štefan Füle, Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood; Yves Leterme, Deputy Secretary General, OECD, Paris; Hon. Zbigniew Brzezinski, former National Security Advisor to the President of the United States, Washington, D.C.
This year, the Forum focuses on issues central to transatlantic and regional cooperation, including European economic prospects and the future of global economic governance. Panellists will also engage in debates over the character of Central European defence cooperation and Central Europe’s energy concerns. Other burning issues to be tackled at GLOBSEC 2013 include NATO’s post-ISAF role, new threats to cyber security, China’s role in the global financial crisis and challenges on Europe’s South-East doorstep.
As part of a packed programme, CES Deputy Director and Head of Research Roland Freudenstein will appear as a speaker in a panel entitled ‘Addressing Iran: Prevention or Treatment?’; he will be joined by Richard Norton-Taylor, Security editor with The Guardian, Amb. Kurt Volker, Executive Director, of the McCain Institute for International Leadership, Ayman Khalil, Director of the Arab Institute for Security Studies in Amman and Emily Landau, Director of Arms Control and Regional Security Program with the Institute for National Security Studies, Tel Aviv. CES Research Associate Katarina Králiková will moderate a panel on Arab transitions as part of the Young Leaders Forum side programme. Visiting Fellow Henna Hopia is also attending the Forum as commentator during one of the dinner sessions, entitled ‘UK in the EU: with Europe but not of Europe?’
For more details concerning GLOBSEC 2013, past editions and live streaming of this year’s public sessions, please visit: http://www.globsec.org/globsec2013/Defence Eastern Europe Foreign Policy Globalisation Security
CES joins GLOBSEC 2013 in Bratislava as Strategic Partner
16 Apr 2013
Marc-Michael Blum Defence EU-US Foreign Policy Security
Rethinking the bomb: Europe and nuclear weapons in the XXI century
10 Apr 2013
On March 27, the Centre for European Studies welcomed a delegation of the Alwasat Party (Centre Party) from Egypt. The aim of the meeting was to exchange views on the current political situation in Egypt and to discuss the role of the EU in the country’s transition process. The Alwasat Party aims to be one of the parties engaged in breaking the deadlock between the ruling Islamists and the opposition. With their long history of opposition under the old regime and the current Muslim Brotherhood government, they could act as credible mediators as they are also closely involved in the current political developments of Egypt.
The delegation was formed by Abou Elela Mady, Chairman, Essam Sultan and Hatem Azzam, Vice-Chairmen and Amr Farouk, Speaker of the party. A day earlier, members of the delegation had participated in a conference organised by the Hanns Seidel Foundation (Brussels office), entitled “Polarized Egypt – Can moderate political Islam bridge the gap?” The delegation’s visit to Brussels was facilitated by Christian Forstner, HSS Brussels office Director and Nina Prasch, HSS Resident Representative in Egypt, also present during the meeting.
CES Director Tomi Huhtanen and Ingrid Habets, foreign policy Research Officer, presented the Centre’s activities related to the Middle East and North Africa region in general and Egypt in particular. Mr Huhtanen emphasised that the Arab Spring events had led to an increased focus of the EU on its neighborhood policies; as a result, the CES also started conducting research, establishing links and offering policy advice on the developments in the region. Ms Habets then presented the results of the Springeneration online initiative, a 2011 survey on how the EU could positively contribute to the momentous changes taking place in many MENA countries. She stressed that while the European Union was mainly focusing on human rights issues at the time, the survey revealed that the 70,000 young respondents from the region emphasised instead the importance of cooperation in the fields of education, entrepreneurship and economic development.
Furthermore, Nicolas Briec, European People’s Party Secretary of External Relations, outlined the EPP’s engagement and support for democratic movements in the region. During the 2011 EPP Marseille Congress, the EPP in cooperation with the CES hosted a group of 40 MENA political activists; in 2012, together with the EPP Group and the CES, they welcomed to Brussels political leaders from four Tunisian parties. Through all these activities, the EPP remains committed to dialogue with like-minded partners and parties in the region; in this respect, the work of political foundations such as the Hanns Seidel Foundation are of great added value.
The Centre for European Studies will continue to devote attention and carry out research focusing on developments in this region. To this end, a policy brief by Lorenzo Vidino, senior fellow at the Centre for Security Studies, ETH Zurich, on the role of the Muslim Brotherhood, its challenges and future scenarios will be available online on the CES website end of April.Arab Spring Foreign Policy Mediterranean Neighbourhood Policy
CES discusses political developments with Egyptian moderate party
28 Mar 2013
The question of what Europe’s nuclear strategy should be is rarely discussed. While Europe continues to play a crucial role on issues relating to non-proliferation, particularly in negotiations with Iran over its nuclear programme, nuclear strategy is generally considered to be within remit of Russia, the United States and NATO.
The paper identifies possible scenarios where the deployment of nuclear weapons may be justified. It also examines the use of tactical nuclear weapons, traditional means of arms control and the implications of a nuclear Iran. The author establishes a compelling case for the immediate development of a coherent European nuclear strategy. This strategy should take into account the role of nuclear weapons in maintaining peace and security in modern Europe.
While conceding that during periods of financial and political crisis dialogue may not be considered a priority, the author maintains that it is essential in order to limit the risk of proliferation or the use of nuclear weapons.Defence EU-US Foreign Policy Middle East Security
Rethinking the Bomb: Europe and Nuclear Weapons in the Twenty-First Century
06 Mar 2013
Tunisia has often been considered both the avant-garde of Arab democracy (having ousted authoritarian leader Ben-Ali already in January 2011), and a bellwether of where its neighbours are going. But ever since the murder of opposition Popular Front leader Chokri Belaïd on 6 February, this country has not been the same anymore. It is true that tension had already been building up in the months before. The economy has hardly recuperated from its 2011 slump, tourism is still at an all-time low, unemployment at dangerous levels and inflation rampant. But the dissatisfaction of many Tunisians with the coalition government of the Islamist Ennahdha and two smaller parties also stems from two political problems they identify with the government: the attempt to impose a more conservative lifestyle on North Africa’s best educated, most secularised society – and the insufficient distinction made by Ennahdha between itself and the more radical, often violent Salafists and other extremists. This dubious role of Ennahdha found its most dramatic expression in the organised violence of the ‘League for the Protection of the Revolution’ (LPR), originally neighbourhood thugs that focused on remnants of the old regime, but that have turned on opposition parties and trade unions in recent months, breaking up meetings and attacking or threatening activists critical of Islamism.
The murder of Chokri Belaïd by as yet unidentified gunmen has radically compounded this already slowly worsening situation. Belaïd, a left-of-centre secular liberal, was a very outspoken critic of Ennahdha and, only one day before his assassination, warned of political violence to come. This violence has now arrived, not only in the murder of Belaïd, but also in street brutality by police as well as the LPR against mostly peaceful protests by secular activists. But the climate of fear that followed is matched by the determination of many thousands of Tunisians that refuse to bend and that will not let the ‘Jasmine revolution’ be hijacked by an Islamism which they now consider a threat not only to their lifestyle but to their very lives.
Yesterday’s resignation of Prime Minister Jebali is a clear recognition of the current Tunisian drama. Early elections are probably the only way now to re-establish some minimal trust of the people in their government. The European Union and its Member States should take note. There are many ways in which the EU can remind the current government of its obligation to stick to minimum human and civic rights standards, especially because it has been democratically elected.
Tunisia can still pull back from the brink. If early elections bring to power a more centrist government with more competence in economics, and police prevents private militias, Salafists and Jihadists from imposing their idea of democracy on the majority of Tunisians, things can in the end turn for the better. Tunisia still has a huge potential. But putting this potential to use will require a strategy with more competence and much stronger roots in civic rights and individual liberty than what we have seen in recent months.
[picture source:www.guardian.co.uk]Roland Freudenstein Arab Spring Democracy Foreign Policy Islam
Tunisia on the brink: After the resignation of Prime Minister Jebali
20 Feb 2013
It’s one of those strange coincidences that underscore a turn in world affairs that has been underway for some time: One day after President Obama announces deep cuts in the US nuclear arsenal, North Korea carries out its third underground nuclear test, against the helpless criticism of most of the international community. Of course, even after the announced cuts, America’s number of warheads should be enough to deter any rational actor, especially one with only a handful of viable nuclear devices. A decrease in warhead numbers does not have the same unilateral effect it had during the Cold War. And yet: While the leading Western power is dramatically cutting both conventional and nuclear forces, some of its worst enemies are doing everything they can to acquire nuclear weapons (Iran) or to expand their nuclear arsenal (North Korea).
Two remarks: First, the dynamics at play here are ominous indeed. The problem is not how many more nuclear warheads the US still has than North Korea (or, in future, Iran). The problem is the signal that is sent by the combination of deep force cuts and the rhetoric about ‘leading from behind’, ‘nation building at home’ and ‘ending a decade of war’. What to the Obama administration is only an acknowledgement of reality, is criticised by US conservatives as declinism and, indeed, a lack of realism about the forces at play in the world. I believe these critics have a point. Spending cuts may be inevitable. But, especially with smart defence, pooling & sharing and the like, they do not necessarily mean weaker forces, which is why the accompanying language vis-à-vis rogue states like North Korea and Iran doesn’t have to be any more appeasing than it has been 5 or 10 years ago.
Russia and China, of course, play key roles in making things easier for both regimes to fool the rest of the world. Upon North Korea’s test, China’s reaction was the habitual call for calm and moderation on all sides. This cannot continue. Europe and America have to coordinate their efforts more closely in trying to convince China to a more openly tough line on Kim Jong Un.
Second, in principle, what can be done about regimes that have or aspire to have nuclear weapons, that export terrorism and that cannot be ultimately deterred by the nuclear weapons of others because their elites are demonstrably following a different logic than the rest of the world? – Sanctions, is the usual answer. But, alas, neither in North Korea nor in Iran, sanctions have so far had any visible effect on the nuclear ambitions – although sanctions do hurt. Which is why they will have to be maintained – if only to show that it doesn’t pay off to be a rogue playing with nukes. But in order to solve the problem at hand, in the long run I am afraid there is no alternative to regime change, that time-honoured concept for which alone many Europeans would have liked to see George W. Bush stand Court in The Hague. It’s still a toxic term, and the method used in Iraq in 2003 may remain out of fashion for a while. But the very intention to change a regime that has become a liability to its own people as much as to everyone else, with all available means, and to help the people to replace it by something better for peace at home and in the world – that we will have to relearn. That involves more non-military than military options. From media such as Radio Liberty to democracy support by NGOs, from helping exiles to the use of facebook, the methods may vary and change over time. But the strategic goal must not. And in extreme cases and moments, it can still involve the use of military instruments, such as clandestine operations, or training and arming rebels. We may invent a new term for regime change. That does not change the fact that the West needs to pursue it, with patience and determination, and based on strength.
Interestingly, in North Korea, one important driver for change from within seems to come from the sweet poison of Western pop culture, smuggled into the country on DVDs and USB sticks by a new class of black market traders and mini-entrepreneurs. This should be exploited and encouraged. In other words, let’s capitalise on it, quite literally!
[Picture source: www.theatlanticwire.com]Roland Freudenstein Defence Foreign Policy
Rogues, nukes and regime change
12 Feb 2013
A political decision was made at NATO Lisbon summit 2010 to end the now 102 000 strong International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission by the end of 2014, possibly still leaving a small contingent in place. This would leave the main security responsibility to the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) with 350 000 men.
However, are politically set timelines always realistic when applied on the ground? Notwithstanding President Hamid Karzai’s reassurance that Afghanistan has progressed and become more stable during the past decade, and that NATO is convinced the ANSF will deliver, the Afghan forces still lack important skills. As a senior US defence official last week put it, only a very small percentage of Afghan units are capable of fully independent operations, even though the ANSF should take control of the whole country by mid-2013. Also, according to the Global Terrorism Index, Afghanistan is the third on the list of countries under terrorist attack, and alongside with Iraq and Pakistan the attacks have more than quadrupled in the past decade, reaching their peak in 2007. Afghans themselves are afraid: will they again be left alone as many times before?
Afghanistan has more or less become NATO’s raison d’être in the past decade, so it needs to continue securing Afghanistan even after 2014. Indeed, a new training, advising and assisting mission will commence after ISAF, but its exact size and scope remain unknown. At the Chicago summit, Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen made one thing clear: ‘It will not be ISAF under a different name. It will be a new mission, with a new role for NATO.’ The US will again have the key role and it’s currently negotiating the mission with Afghan officials; details are to be announced in the coming weeks. Estimates of the number of troops involved run from 6000 to 30000. The mission could also be very limited if it focuses only on core tasks such as counter-terrorism, as the Pentagon has indicated. Nevertheless, the new mission should be strong and long-lasting enough to prevent the emergence of a power vacuum.
The war for hearts and minds
The insurgents, such as the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network, are waiting for such a vacuum. Over the past few years they have expanded their attacks to cover the whole country, and changed their strategy from military targets to soft ones, using suicide attacks and road side bombs against the Afghan police, civil servants and civilians including children. In addition to demonstrating their power to attacks whenever and wherever they want, their aim is to create distrust amongst the Afghan people towards a government that is unable to protect them.
The international and Afghan troops are also facing a newer more terrifying weapon, the ‘green on blue’ attacks, where the troops are killed by the very people they train – the Afghan soldiers and policemen, insurgents in disguise or recruited members of the forces. Some claim the recruitment vetting procedure has not been able to keep up with the rapid expansion of the forces, and ISAF is now improving the security protocols.
Nevertheless, the insider attacks have already caused a crisis of trust between the coalition and Afghan troops. The contributing countries have been demoralised by news of casualties, a lack of improvement in the security situation and slow progress in state reforms. The sense of belief of the mission has been undermined also by internal divisions in NATO, such as the feeling in the US that Europe is not doing enough. The political left has generally supported ending the mission and some Allies have decided to exit before the agreed timetable: France under President François Holland pulled its combat troops out just earlier this week, following the Netherlands (2010) and Canada (2011). President Barack Obama has also expressed his intention to withdraw the troops as fast as possible.
Peace deal or civil war
There are different scenarios as to what will happen to Afghanistan. The best, but also the least likely solution, would be a successful transition leading to a loss of interest by the insurgents. Also difficult, but already underway, is an attempt to negotiate a political settlement between the Afghan government and the insurgents. As it’s become evident that no military solution is possible, this has become the main objective also for the West. So far President Karzai hasn’t been able to get parties around the table under his ‘High Peace Council’. Keeping the Taliban’s close ally Haqqani network out of the talks might also delay matters (they were recently blacklisted by the US and UN). Also, as 2014 approaches, one might ask how willing will the Taliban be to negotiate.
No real progress is expected anytime soon, but some individuals from the Afghan government and the Taliban are meeting for the first time this week in Paris. If there is no result before the coalition leaves, the third, and at this point most likely, scenario could happen. This would mean Afghanistan falling back into a civil and proxy war with large parts of the country under a ruthless Islamist rule, and acting as a safe haven for terrorists such as al-Qaeda. The presidential elections in April 2014 will be decisive: will the people trust the government, or will the country drift back into chaos.
The peace talks should also address regional aspects. The Western interest in Afghanistan might diminish, but its strategic position, energy routes and rich materials, remain relevant to the regional powers. Even though there is not much the EU and NATO can do to influence these powers, we should recognise their impact on Afghanistan, and therefore on our own security.
Pakistan’s fate is most closely interlinked with Afghanistan’s and its general elections in 2013 will have a huge impact on the region. Pakistan claims to be committed to a stable Afghanistan, and the US is paying it to fight the insurgents, but at the same time Pakistan is accused of offering the Taliban sanctuary. On top of this, the Pakistani Taliban now intends to focus their attacks more on US forces in Afghanistan instead of the Pakistani government. Pakistan was a supporter of the Taliban rule in Afghanistan, and now it’s demanding that the Haqqanis should be involved in negotiations. In the end, what Pakistan wants is to counterbalance India.
In turn, India has no sympathy for the Taliban and it helps the Afghan government by donating funds and training the forces. Trade is important to all the regional players however it’s China whose interests in Afghanistan are mostly economic. It wants a stable Afghanistan to invest and gain from its raw materials, and it tries to stay out of fights. However it objects to a permanent US presence in Afghanistan, as does Iran. Iran also has a strong economic position in Afghanistan and a large minority of Afghan migrants and refugees, who it’s now rejecting because of a dislike of Afghan pro-American policies. Regardless of this it supports the Afghan government, but also the Taliban to some extent to erode US dominance.
Competing with Iran for influence is its archrival Saudi Arabia. Turkey also plays a significant role as a regional power and a mediator between the Afghanistan and Pakistan. For its own security’s sake, Russia wants to see a stable Afghanistan and containment of Islamist extremism. On the other hand, it has no interest in making Afghanistan look like a success for the West.
Towards the future or back to the past
In the end transparent and lawful governance and real economic opportunities for people is what would guarantee stability in the country. President Karzai has been accused of insufficient reforms, and Afghanistan remains the third most corrupt country in the world. It’s also the source of 90 per cent of the world’s opium, and 2012 saw an 18 per cent increase in its cultivation. The drug business not only contributes to organised crime and is a global concern, but is one of the Taliban’s main financial sources.
Continued international support for reforms is needed and funding of over 12 million euros for economic and political transition in Afghanistan by the international community has been agreed. Merely donating, however, is not enough: the EU should not leave the business opportunities just for the other powers but increase our own economic ties as well; that would also contribute to a long-term development in Afghanistan.
Our enemy’s worst enemy is the modernisation of society. The Afghans themselves, especially women, are worried what would happen to their embattled human rights and education efforts, should international support diminish. One open question is whether EU Member States will decide next summer to continue the EUPOL mission after 2014. EUPOL, which works on judicial reform and rule of law, on top of senior police training, cannot however remain without sufficient military protection and there are already concerns as several provinces are now left to their own devices.
Without our help, Afghanistan might have a grimmer future, a repeat of the past or even worse, which would mean a grimmer future for the whole region, and for all of us.
Conclusions: What Europe should do
• The EU should strengthen its trade with Afghanistan for mutual benefit, identify where Europe could invest and export its know-how.
• The EU and NATO together should create a comprehensive strategic concept on Afghanistan and the region, also identifying roles and tasks for both organisations.
• The EU should continue its EUPOL mission and NATO guarantee sufficient military presence after 2014, basing exit-decisions on realities on the ground. A long-term engagement in Afghanistan is in Europe’s own interest.
Picture source: author’s archiveHenna Hopia Defence Foreign Policy Security
Afghanistan – Back to the Past? Update on EU and NATO involvement
20 Dec 2012
An action plan for EU–MENA cooperation in the field of education should aim to (i) strengthen ongoing projects under the Euro-Mediterranean Higher Education and Research Area while initiating new policy mechanisms to support quality education and network-based governance and (ii) coordinate EU efforts with those of other donors to create sound policies that are politically and administratively feasible.Arab Spring Foreign Policy Middle East
Ideas to Actions: A Springeneration for EU-MENA Cooperation in Education
01 Nov 2012
Turkey’s growing assertiveness on the international stage, difficulties with EU accession, rapidly rising economy, and the long and controversial reign of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) are all necessitating a need for analysis. The present study of the Centre for European Studies presents two papers which look at Turkey and the AKP from different perspectives. Svante Cornell’s paper argues that AKP has moved away from democratic reforms and that Turkey’s ‘zero problems with the neighbours’ approach to international relations has failed. Gerald Knaus maintains that the AKP and the EU’s influence on Turkey have effected radical changes in the balance of power between the military and civilian actors, thus bringing Turkey somewhat closer to Western democratic standards. Both authors advocate continued EU engagement with Turkey, irrespective of the progress of accession negotiationsEuropean Union Foreign Policy Mediterranean Neighbourhood Policy
Dealing with a Rising Power: Turkey’s Transformation and its Implications for the EU
01 Oct 2012
The global trend for contracting out the supply of military and security services to private military and security companies is growing. Security is being transformed from a service for the public or common good into a privately provided service. The present paper by Nikolaos Tzifakis argues that the implications of outsourcing security services to private agencies are not a priori positive or negative; proper regulation of private military and security services is important.
The author recommends that states should determine their ‘inherently governmental functions’ and keep these functions out of the market’s reach. States should attempt to mitigate some of the shortcomings in the operation of the private market for security services by preventing supply from determining its own demand. States need to avoid contracting out services to corporations that enjoy a monopoly in the market. Instead, they should open competitive bids for all private security contracts.Defence Foreign Policy Security
Contracting out to Private Military and Security Companies
23 Jul 2012
There is every indication that the international system is undergoing a period of significant transformation. The substantially higher growth rates of the emerging-market economies in comparison with those of the developed economies are changing the global distribution of power. Studies project that if economic trends are not reversed in the coming years, China will surpass the US and become the world’s largest economy, India will emerge in Japan’s place as the third-largest economy and Brazil will outpace Germany as the fifth-largest. This book underscores the complexity of forecasting international politics and proceeds cautiously to investigate the questions of change and continuity, examining several actors with respect to multiple issues and across different levels of analysis. Taken as a whole, this collection of essays offers a series of snapshots of different aspects, and from varying angles, of an international system in motion.Foreign Policy Globalisation Security
International Politics in Times of Change
02 Jan 2012
In the aftermath of this year’s revolutions, the EU has rightly recommitted itself to the support of democracy and human rights in the Middle East and North Africa. However, although protesters across the southern Mediterranean share some of the EU’s values, they do not see Europe as a political model and democracy in the region is likely to produce some results with which Europeans are not comfortable. This brief argues that, in response, the EU should focus above all on the development of legitimate and accountable governments in post-revolutionary countries in the Arab world. Rather than backing specific political groups in countries that are in transition, the EU should work to create the building blocks and background conditions for fair and inclusive politics. The EU should also try to support human rights through transparent diplomacy and support for civil society. In countries such as Morocco that remain undemocratic, the EU should develop a more political approach that pushes harder for incremental reform in return for credible benefits, while continuing to engage on other EU interests. The use of violence against civilians in countries like Syria should be a red line for limiting cooperation, drawing condemnation and sanctions in severe cases. EU proposals on conditionality and a new European Endowment for Democracy will be most effective if they are focused on the support of accountable and legitimate government.Arab Spring Foreign Policy Neighbourhood Policy
Europe and the Arab Revolutions
01 Jan 2012
On 6 December 2011, the Centre for European Studies (CES), with the involvement of the International Republican Institute (IRI), had the pleasure of welcoming friends from North Africa and the Middle East (MENA) to participate in two policy workshops within the framework of the International Visitors’ Programme at the EPP Congress in Marseille. T
he two workshops, titled ‘Youth, education and jobs: investment that makes a difference’ and ‘Inclusion, cooperation and innovation: powerhouses of economic growth’, engaged young activists and leaders from MENA countries in order to define current challenges, brainstorm solutions and explore possibilities for collaboration with Europeans.
Below are five key take-aways from the workshops, generated by the brightest minds in the MENA region. This short list reflects the very latest issues being tackled by the ‘spring generation’ of activists in MENA countries and is intended to provide a basis for future dialogue.
1. Education was by far the most prominent theme in both workshops. Participants agreed that substantial reforms are urgently needed across the MENA region in order to solve a wide range of economic, political and social challenges.
2. One of the main focus points in education reform, from the primary all the way to the university level, should be a greater emphasis on the needs of students as opposed to the needs of teachers, schools or the state.
3. Another focus area should be the correlation between education systems and the actual needs of labour markets, especially in those industries key to spurring economic growth. One potential approach is to focus on ‘centres of excellence’, meaning that specific success stories should be identified, built upon and used as a basis for further reform.
4. In addressing these goals, cooperation is essential, both among MENA countries themselves and between the MENA region and Europe. This cooperation must be broad and must involve not only governments, but also civil society and business groups.
5. Meaningful dialogue and successful cooperation will be most successful if Europeans and Arabs alike make a commitment to seek to better understand and appreciate the viewpoints from which the other is coming. This is especially important when discussing issues such as the inclusion of women in society and in the labour market.
Would you like to make your voice heard on these issues as well? Then participate in the latest initiative of the Centre for European Studies! Go towww.springeneration.eu and share your ideas!John Lageson Arab Spring Foreign Policy
Building on the Arab Spring
13 Dec 2011
On 23 October, Tunisia held the first elections in the region after the Arab Spring. The results put the Islamist Ennahda party in the lead, but with the need to form a coalition with one or more secular centre-left parties. • Ennahda’s supporters see the party as a moderate political force supportive of women’s rights; however, its opponents warn of Ennahda’s double discourse and believe that, once elected, hardliners will impose a more fundamentalist view of Islam on Tunisian society.
Ennahda is likely to remain moderate in the short- and medium-term, especially in order to ensure the support of its coalition partners. However, in the longer term its policies could gradually lead to greater Islamisation of the country. • Contrary to the very well organised Ennahda, there are a number of secular, mainly centreleft parties in Tunisia, which are rather disorganised and significantly fragmented. Nonetheless, these parties hope to soon act together to present a more credible secularopposition to the Islamists.
The West should respect the results as a free and democratic choice of the Tunisian people while striving to be an inclusive partner. This means the West should show more trust and offer practical advice and support in the upcoming democratic processes in Tunisia, including the drafting of the constitution and preparing for the next elections. Background Tunisia is the regional front-runner in a number of aspects – its economy, sizeable middle-class, relatively educated population, greater degree of gender equality, vibrant civil society and overall modernity. It was Tunisia which started the wave of change that has infected other Arab countries with the desire for a more free and democratic Middle East, where human dignity is an indispensable part of society.
Tunisia is the first country to organise elections after the Arab Spring which, according to national and international observers, have been open, fair and conducted in a democratic and transparent way. Tunisia was also the first country in the region to withdraw all its reservations about the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and to guarantee gender parity on the electoral lists of all registered parties. The revolution in Tunisia may have caught the West by surprise, but the same cannot be said about the results of the 23 October elections. The various polls conducted before the elections were right to place the Islamist party Ennahda in the lead. The high turnout in the elections simply confirmed the strong popularity of the party, which, according to unofficial results, show anywhere from 30-40% of the vote and the biggest share of seats in the 217 seat assembly. The rest of the seats in the assembly will be proportionally divided among nine other political parties. Overall, more than 100 political parties across a wide political spectrum – Islamist, nationalist, leftist, communist, green and all imaginable combinations thereof –registered for the elections. Some parties had almost identical platforms, some had no platforms at all and some formed alliances, some of which have been dissolved and others yet to be created.
The results of the elections have provoked some protests in the country, but overall, Tunisians,even those disappointed by Ennahda’s victory, are determined to accept them. The same reaction should come from the West. After all, this result reflects the will of the Tunisian people. Who is the winner? Ennahda, or the Renaissance Party, is described, mainly by its supporters, as a moderate Islamist party; they argue the party is in the centre of the political spectrum, supports economic freedom and opposes radical Islam. It is the best-organised political force in the country and is well-funded with the strong grass roots support in the poorest areas. Its opponents, however, are doubtful of its moderate views and advise caution regarding Ennahda’s so-called ‘double discourse‘; while its leaders say one thing when secularists and the West are listening, local activitsts and imams in the mosques do the other. It is true that in its early stages, Ennahda – originally inspired by the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt – was aligned with more extreme Islamist movements in the Arab world and was known for the strongly-conservative writings of its leader Rachid Ghanouchi. But this was more than 20 years ago, before the party was banned by the regime and Ghanouchi exiled to London where, according to some observers, he moved from classic conservatism to a more liberal way of thinking. Some observers argue that highlighting their moderate, progressive, rights-based approach to governance was just part of the election campaign, a guise to appeal to voters. These critics believe that, once elected, hardliners will impose a more fundamentalist view of Islam on Tunisia’s society, enforcing the code of morality and revising the code of personal status, thereby creating a negative impact on gender equality.
The election results now give Ennahda the opportunity to demonstrate how religious and how conservative the party really is and whether the Islamist fear, which was often used to support repressive government policies, is justified. Ennahda is in a powerful but precarious situation. It won the elections but cannot rule alone and needs to form a coalition with secular parties. This should be a reassuring aspect for those who fear a complete Islamist takeover.
Ennahda must now move from a protest movement to being the most important player in a coalition government. Another challenge for the party is that despite being a largely one-man show, it needs to work seriously within its lower cadres and with groups beyond the entourage of Rachid Ghannouchi. It also needs to confront ideological divisions within the party which have already led some of the more reflective personalities to leave to form their own groups. If the party wants to prevent further divisions, it does not have the luxury of becoming too conservative. More strategically, Ennahda‘s leaders must realise that women’s rights are very important to the majority of the population and that if they go back on their campaign promises and put limitations on a concrete rights-based legislation (by introducing concepts such as forced veiling, limitations on female education, polygamy, etc.), they will face opposition from within their own party as well as from outside, which would reduce their chances of being re-elected. Therefore, in the short- to medium-term they are only likely to adopt aesthetic modifications such as allowing the hijab or even niqab in universities or overturning the ban on veils in national identity card photographs.However, in the long-term this could lead, step by step, to greater Islamisation of the country.
Another worrying aspect for many Tunisians is that Ennahda’s internal party elections have been postponed until after the national elections, thereby giving Ennahda members a chance to elect a new and potentially more conservative leadership. Members of banned and more radical political groups such as the Salafi Hizb al-Tahrir have expressed interest in participating in the internal elections. If the party’s hard-line conservatives then come to power, there would be significant questions about Ennahda’s commitment to a moderate stance supportive of women’s rights. Who are the others? Since Ennahda has not won a majority of the votes, it will have to create a coalition with one or more secular parties. This means that it will need to promote a more moderate agenda to ensure the support of its coalition members. At the moment it seems like the coalition will be formed with two secular centre-left parties, namely Congress for the Republic and Ettakatol. Congress for the Republic, which came in second in the elections, was legalised after the revolution, while Ettakatol, or the Democratic Forum for Labour and Liberties, existed as an opposition party already under the Ben Ali regime (but was largely marginalised).
The main opposition party is likely to be the secular and centre-left Progressive Democratic Party (PDP). The election results were a huge disappointment for this party which, according to preelection polls, was expected to be the runner-up; in the end it only received around 10% of the vote. This could be attributed to the fact that the party was not as marginalised as the others, acting as the biggest opposition party during the Ben Ali regime. This clearly shows that Tunisians want to see a complete break with the past. The PDP will most probably form an alliance with other like-minded parties, including the Democratic Modernist Pole and the Party of Tunisian Workers, to offer a more credible alternative to Ennahda. The PDP’s main centre-left rival, Ettakatol, declined the offer of an alliance, but there are a number of other small parties who may join at a later point. Since there was such strong secular-Islamist polarisation prior to the election, many parties may be willing to make otherwise unlikely alliances within the secular ‘bloc‘ of parties.
Furthermore, a majority of the parties have been formed in the last eight months which, according to some analysts, means that the members – in order to support freedom, peace and development – are more flexible on their beliefs rather than being firm with regard to their individual programmes. Other analysts challenge this argument by saying that the secular liberals are too divided and that it will be difficult to overcome this fragmentation due to ‘massive egos‘ of most of the party leaders. Therefore, they predict that these parties will go into the ‘political wilderness‘ for some months and later realise that they can becomerelatively strong only if they get to acts together. What message for the West? The West should show a little more trust in both the Tunisian Islamists and the Tunisian voters:The Islamists have been democratically elected and therefore will be accountable to the voters.They cannot push an agenda that the majority of the population does not want. Otherwise theirpower could easily have a short life; if they push forward an agenda that is too conservative, they will risk the same end as Ben Ali – an ejection from office. The revolution has simply broken the fear of Tunisian people and if politicians overstep their boundaries, people will take to the streets to protest. Moreover, Tunisia has a relatively developed civil society, the highest literacy rate in the Arab world and a westernised cultural environment, especially in Tunis and the coastal areas.
All this, including the importance of tourism for Tunisia’s economy, constitutes a considerable hedge against extremism. The West should not turn its back on Tunisia’s Islamists, and instead should reach out to them. Analysts by large agree that the more excluded the Islamists are by the international community, the more radicalised they can get. But even if the Islamists in Tunisia remain moderate and take the Turkish AKP as a role model, it does not mean that there is no reason for caution. Looking at the AKP in the last years, the party has shown a growing influence over the judiciary and increasing restrictions on media freedom. On the foreign policy front, Turkey’s intentions in Iran, Israel, Sudan and its stance in NATO raise questions about whether this is the best example for a new Tunisia. Thus, the West should pursue a balanced mixture of trust and caution; it should be a partner who listens carefully and learns fast. The newly elected assembly will draft a new constitution, appoint an interim government and set a date for new elections late next year or in early 2013. There is certainly room for the West to offer practical advice and support in all these democratic processes.
Finally, what about the lack of trust? Such a lack has been proven to be best repaired through people-to-people programmes. Therefore, the West should place a strong emphasis on student exchanges, summer schools and cultural exchanges and internship placements for both Tunisianstudents in the EU and vice-versa.Katarina Králiková Arab Spring Elections Foreign Policy
Tunisia’s first elections after the Arab Spring
27 Oct 2011
The 2011 edition is devoted to “Europe and the Crisis and Threats at Large” (economic crisis, budget, Euro, reciprocity, defence, terrorism, industrial policy populism, etc) notably with articles by Jacques de Larosière, Anne-Marie Idrac, Alain Lamassoure, Joachim Bitterlich, Philippe Camus, Arnaud Danjean. It also includes an exclusive interview with Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council. 26 specialists offer readers original analyses, supported with unique data (48) and maps (28), covering everything there is to know about Europe in 2011. The articles focus on the following themes:
• the European Union and the crisis, the rise of populism, Germany 20 years after reunification.
• lessons to be learned from the world economic and financial crisis, outlook for the next European budget, the debt crisis, central banks and monetary policy, Europe and industrial ambition, economy and speculation.
• the threat of al-Qaeda, EU’s new trade policy, European Defence.
• the results of the electoral year, the representation of women in Europe, the protection of human rights, legislative output.Crisis European Union Foreign Policy
Schuman Report on Europe: State of the Union 2011
29 Apr 2011
In this paper, three long-time observers of Russia and the EU perform a reality check on the EU–Russia relationship. All three authors agree that a more realistic EU policy would deal with Russia as it is, not as the EU wants it to be. The reality of today’s Russia is complex, as is the policy formulation process in the EU. Nevertheless, the EU should start with a clearer idea of where its own interests and priorities lie. It should accept that it can achieve fruitful cooperation with Russia in some areas while openly disagreeing with it in others. The EU needs to be prepared to work with Russia as an equal partner without compromising its own norms and values.Energy EU-Russia Foreign Policy
EU-Russia Relations: Time for a realistic turnaround
01 Mar 2011
This research paper analyses the foreign policy positions of five populist parties of the Right and Left in Western Europe. It focuses on foreign policy, an often ignored dimension of their ideas. It aims to fill a hole in policy debates by showing that European populism poses a coherent threat to mainstream politics, that foreign policy can be instrumental to the challenge mounted by populist parties against centrist politics and that the impact of those positions is practical and real for European states and the European Union.Extremism Foreign Policy Populism
Old Ghosts in New Sheets: European Populist Parties and Foreign Policy
01 Mar 2011
This report will examine America’s and Europe’s positions in the world and their relationship with one another. What are the reasons for the widening of the divide? Are they rooted in current political or individual constellations, or are there larger structural causes—even paradigm shifts—that are slowly driving the partners apart? It will then discuss several areas of transatlantic cooperation and describe how the current divides over these issues can be bridged and a new framework established: a new transatlantic relationship for the multipolar age.EU-US Foreign Policy Transatlantic
Stopping the Drift: Recalibrating the Transatlantic Relationship for a Multipolar World
01 Oct 2010
The six states of the ‘Eastern Partnership’ – Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and the Ukraine – can be termed the “New Eastern Europe”. In this paper Svante Cornell, discusses the EU’s internal divisions and how to deal with the new Eastern Europe. He also outlines the prospects of the Eastern Partnership.Eastern Europe EU-Russia Foreign Policy
The New Eastern Europe: Challenges and Opportunities for the EU
01 Mar 2010
The purpose of this research paper is to critically review the policies of the European Union towards Africa, to consider some important future challenges for the interregional relationship and to present some useful policy recommendationsForeign Policy Security Trade
EU-Africa Relations: Dealing With the Challenges of the Future
01 Jan 2010
European views on Turkey’s membership in the EU have been split between those in support of its full integration and those advocating a privileged partnership. To the extent that many of the latter proposals imply that Turkey will be partially integrated within Europe in certain areas, the question of Turkey’s accession is probably not about ‘if’, but about ‘how much’ integration there will be within the Union’s structures. The purpose of this book is not to offer a definitive response to this question. The book aims instead to examine the complexity of the issues pertaining to Turkey’s prospective EU membership by presenting several, often divergent, accounts of the political, security and socio-economic dimensions of the entire process. The book provides a forum for an exchange of views among distinguished scholars and researchers from different national backgrounds in order to contribute to the ongoing public discussion of Turkey’s accession.Enlargment European Union Foreign Policy Integration Security
Turkey’s Accession to the European Union: An Unusual Candidacy
05 Jan 2009
This paper assesses the extent of cooperation between the EU, Israel and the PA and offers a set of policy recommendations for European policy makers responsible for relations with Israel, the PA and the Middle East in general.Foreign Policy Middle East
Squaring the Circle? EU-Israel Relations and the Peace Process in the Middle East
01 Jan 2009
This report is about promotion of the democratic constitutional state in the Middle East. The perception of the Western world is not very positive in the Middle East. Religion is seen as part of a confrontation strategy, rather than part of the dialogue. But there is a bridge. For both Christian Democrats and Muslims, religion is a source of inspiration for their lives and their political orientation. Our experience is that religion can be a very rich source for democracy. The question is which elements of our tradition and history are most productive for the dialogue.Democracy Foreign Policy Islam Middle East Religion
Crossing bridges – Democratisation in the Middle East and a Christian Democratic Approach
07 Nov 2008
It is a common perception that poverty is fertile breeding ground for terrorism. Or at least, fuel for such activity. But not all poor areas produce extremism; we know where young men absorb extremist ideologies, and where, for instance, jihadists receive their training. In the beginning we bumped into the problem of definition; what is terrorism? What kind of terrorism are we looking into? Should we leave, say, separatist acts outside? Then the decision had to be made: this conference was to concentrate its efforts on understanding the logic and driving forces behind Islamist terrorism, and whether a better directed development policy could play any role in fighting it – given that poverty and lack of opportunities do play a role in an individual’s decision to join a radical group. Security in Europe – or globally, for that matter – is of course not entirely dependent on religious fanaticism. There are new threats we are aware of, and which we should better prepare for. There was also a question about the possible links between security and development, and how they interact.Development Extremism Foreign Policy Security
Fight against terrorism and Development Policy: Two Sides of the Same Coin
02 Nov 2008
NATO and the European Union have developed, enlarged and grown closer to each other. With common security threats, which are global in nature and hold both new and old elements, the tasks of these two organisations have aligned. Now it is important to ask what must be done to avoid overlapping ef orts and to create beneﬁcial synergies. The nature of these organisations offers possibilities and generates standards for further cooperation and integration. The purpose of this paper is to describe developments in the ever changing security environment of Europe, and the steps the EU and NATO have taken to tackle these threats. Could there be more profound defence cooperation between the EU and NATO?Defence European Union Foreign Policy Security
The Finnish Perspective: European Defence
02 Jun 2008